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Teach the Vote's Week in Review: May 20, 2022

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Texas Legislature Elections TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Privatization | Vouchers Deregulation | Charter Schools Testing | Accountability

Date Posted: 5/20/2022

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.

RUNOFFS: Today (Friday, May 20) is the last day of early voting for the Texas primary election runoffs. Election Day is Tuesday, May 24, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but anyone who is in line before 7 p.m. is still eligible to vote. In this recent blog post, ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins writes about what the low-turnout runoffs could mean for education issues next session.

Registered voters who did not participate in the primary election in March are eligible to vote in either party’s primary. Those who did vote in a party’s primary in March must vote in that same party’s primary runoff. There are statewide offices on each party’s runoff ballot, including the race for Attorney General. ATPE’s Teach the Vote resources now include profiles of the Republican and Democratic primary runoff candidates for Texas Attorney General. Use our search tools to learn more about these and other candidates before you head out to vote in the runoffs.

TASK FORCE: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced two dozen teacher members were newly added to the Teacher Vacancy Task Force that was convened earlier this year. ATPE and other stakeholders advocated for more teacher voice, which earlier prompted TEA to immediately add State Board for Educator Certification member and Dallas ISD teacher Josue Tamarez Torres, also naming him as the new task force chair. TEA subsequently opened an application for additional teachers.

The newly appointed teachers include several ATPE members and 2021 Texas Teacher of the Year Eric Hale, also from Dallas ISD. Read more in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier. The task force is scheduled to meet for a second time June 2.
Related: After conducting a survey of over 400 educators, ATPE released a report with policy recommendations for the task force to review. Among the recommendations were strategies to increase teacher pay, particularly for veteran teachers. This week, ATPE’s Mark Wiggins spoke with Fox 7 Austin on Lockhart ISD’s new pay raise plan, which does just that.

VOUCHERS: Last week, we reported that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) publicly announced his support for school voucher legislation that would send public taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private schools. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Abbott insisted this week on a radio program that vouchers won’t take money away from public schools, especially in rural areas.

ATPE's Mark Wiggins spoke with KXAN News about a poll released this week that shows voters are split on the issue of school vouchers in Texas, but they overwhelmingly agree with the concern that vouchers will take away from public school funding. Wiggins said the state should be more focused on allocating funds to address the teacher shortage than on diverting public funds to private entities that have no accountability. If passed by lawmakers, voucher programs would likely drive up state expenses for education, costing taxpayers additional money.

SPENDING: Texas Ethics Commission filings made public this week show charter school proponents continue to pour unprecedented amounts of money into Texas elections, specifically targeting primary runoffs for the State Board of Education and Texas House of Representatives. Funded by Netflix founder Reed Hastings and Jim Walton of the Walmart family, the two largest pro-charter PACs spent nearly a million dollars on Texas races between February and May. Groups hoping to get a private school voucher through the Legislature next year are spending even more.

Read about the massive amounts being spent in runoffs that have significant implications for public education in this new Teach the Vote blog post.

STAAR: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced this week it will resume grading schools under the A-F accountability system based on students’ STAAR test results — for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, campuses and districts will receive only ratings of A-C, with schools that would have scored a D or F receiving a “not rated” designation. Schools that fall under this lower threshold will not be subject to sanctions during the 2022-23 school year. Students across Texas have begun taking the STAAR this week, and test administration has had a few hiccups; STAAR administration was disrupted in Arlington ISD by a district-wide internet outage.

ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter told The Texas Tribune this week the accountability system coupled with the STAAR test force schools to teach to the test instead of taking a holistic approach to teaching. “Teaching people how to test is frankly a completely worthless skill,” Exter said.

PAXTON: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) released an opinion Tuesday that schools cannot withhold student health information from parents. The opinion came in response to a request from Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) that accused schools of withholding information, such as a student’s disclosure that they are transgender.

Paxton has publicized dozens of opinions as part of his bid for reelection, in which he faces a challenger, current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (R), in the May 24 Republican primary runoff. On Thursday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) issued a rare criticism of a fellow Texas Republican, stating he’s “embarrassed” by Paxton’s ongoing legal scandals that include a criminal indictment for securities fraud and corruption allegations levied by his former staffers. Paxton was also called out this week by watchful observers for his new campaign ad about public school curriculum, which was misspelled as “cirriculum” in the TV spot.

LEGISLATURE: The House Public Education Committee will meet at 10 a.m. (CDT) Tuesday, May 24, to discuss a variety of interim charges. The lengthy agenda includes opportunities for public feedback on accelerated instruction under House Bill (HB) 4545, Reading Academies, and the impacts of COVID-19 on learning loss and students’ mental health. ATPE will be providing invited testimony.
The Senate Education Committee will also meet Tuesday, May 24, at 9 a.m. (CDT) for its first interim hearing to discuss the COVID-19 impact on the educator pipeline, HB 4545, school bonds, and homestead exemptions from school district property taxes.
The Texas Commission on Virtual Education will also meet next week on Wednesday, May 25, with an agenda covering special populations.

SBOE: The State Board of Education (SBOE) held a special meeting this week for preliminary discussions on revisions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards for social studies. Due to the interest in the social studies TEKS that has been driven by 2021 curriculum-related legislation and candidates’ campaign messages during the 2022 primaries, the board has elected to schedule multiple special meetings to accommodate public comments on the TEKS. The social studies TEKS review is expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year. 

The SBOE will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting in June. Also on the agenda for that meeting will be a review of the recent State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) rule change to adopt the edTPA assessment for future certification candidates. By law, all SBEC-adopted rules are subject to a final revew by the SBOE, which can veto the rule change or allow it to go into effect. Read more about the edTPA rule here.

MAGAZINE: The Summer 2022 issue of ATPE News is now available online. Included in this issue are stories on a new wave of ransomware attacks on schools, North East ISD’s big investment in a cybersecurity curriculum, and information about the “Back in Person and Focused on the Future” 2022 ATPE Summit.


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