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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 31, 2024

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 5/31/2024

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

PRIMARY RUNOFFS: The 2024 primary elections concluded Tuesday with runoffs across the state. It was a rough night for both incumbents and the prospects of an 89th Legislature friendly to public education. All but two of the incumbents seeking another term in the Texas Legislature lost the bid to keep their seat. Among the larger group, three of four pro-public education incumbents were defeated by challengers heavily financed by both Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and voucher-supporting interest groups. The notable exception was the victory of Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston) in House District (HD) 1. The other big news of the evening was Speaker Dade Phelan’s narrow win in HD 21, where he staved off a challenge from David Covey, the chosen candidate of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave has a full wrap-up of election results here, and The Texas Tribune has taken a look at what they mean for the voucher debate. In addition, ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter spoke with CBS Austin and ABC 13 Eyewitness News (Houston) about the results. 

OER: On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced the beginning of public feedback on High Quality Instructional Materials (HQIM), including Open Education Resources (OER) textbooks developed by TEA. The 88th Legislature mandated the creation of these state-owned instructional materials in House Bill (HB) 1605. The expectation that users of OER will “internalize and present” the materials verse incorporating them into teacher created individualized lesson plans has been controversial, especially with more experienced educators. Adding to the concern are the financial and liability incentives offered to districts for requiring their use. OER textbooks are available for K-5 Reading & Language Arts (RLA) and K-8/Algebra Mathematics. ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter provided a statement to KXAN News (Austin) on OER, sharing the concerns shared with ATPE by many educators that these materials will become a prescribed tool that takes away “the thing they love most about their profession: the actual teaching.” 

According to The Texas Tribune, yet another concern with the OER, and potentially other HQIM labeled materials, is that TEA has infused Bible teachings into the instructional materials school districts are being incentivized to use. Following the public feedback period, the State Board of Education (SBOE) is expected to grant final approval to the materials at its November meeting. 

SENATE: The Senate Committee on State Affairs met this week to discuss interim charges related to election security, among other things. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) ordered the committee to “evaluate current laws that prohibit political subdivisions and public school districts from using government resources for illegal electioneering” and to “make recommendations to strengthen these laws and put a stop to illegal electioneering.” ATPE submitted testimony to the committee emphasizing that using public resources for electioneering is inappropriate and already illegal under existing law. ATPE recommended the committee consider legislation to address the increase in frivolous lawsuits intended to chill legal political speech from Texas educators and undermine confidence in the electoral process.

TRS: The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) has released its 2023 TRS Health Benefits Report, which shares information about the performance of the TRS-ActiveCare and TRS-Care health plans. One in 46 Texans is enrolled in a TRS health plan.

UVALDE: The families of students killed in the May 24, 2022, shooting at Uvalde CISD’s Robb Elementary are suing Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the AR-15 used in the shooting, as well as video game maker Activision and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. Activision produces the game Call of Duty, which features Daniel Defense guns. The families have also sued law enforcement and government officials who responded to the shooting. According to The Texas Tribune, the lawsuits against Daniel Defense, Meta, and Activision argue the companies marketed semi-automatic weapons to the Uvalde gunman before he was 18 and therefore accuse the companies of negligence and wrongful death.

ATPE SUMMIT: Friday, June 7, is the last day for ATPE local unit and region presidents to certify delegates for the annual ATPE House of Delegates (HOD) Meeting, which will take place July 9 during the 2024 ATPE Summit. Delegates are responsible for annual approval of the member-written ATPE Legislative Program, which guides ATPE Governmental Relations in all of its advocacy efforts. The ability to say that a wide range of educators from Texas wrote and voted on the legislative program is a key talking point for ATPE lobbyists as they advocate for member priorities. Don’t miss your chance to have a voice. Contact your president today to let them know you would like to serve as a voting delegate. (New this year: All summit attendees must individually register themselves.) Learn more at atpesummit.org.


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