Teach the Vote's Week in Review: Sept. 16, 2022
School Finance Educator Preparation | Certification Retirement | TRS | Social Security Texas Legislature Congress | Federal Elections School Safety Educator Compensation | Benefits
Date Posted: 9/16/2022
The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.
- New ed prep coalition briefs legislative staff on key issues
- House committees to discuss “all things teachers” and hear ATPE testimony next week
- Texas schools deal with false active shooter reports
- ATPE speaks to news media about teacher shortage, classroom supply costs
- TRS board discusses educator health insurance costs at September meeting
- Get ready for the November election
- ATPE observes National Hispanic Heritage Month and more in September
COALITION: ATPE is a founding member of the new Texas Coalition for Educator Preparation (TCEP), which brings together representatives from K-12 and educator preparation organizations to identify issues and solve problems in the Texas educator pipeline. TCEP’s mission is to “advance and raise the profile of the education profession by supporting the continuous improvement of educator recruitment, preparation, and certification practices as well as promoting ongoing professional growth and support.”
Other TCEP founding members include representatives from the Texas Association of Teacher Educators (TxATE), Associate and Assistant Deans and Directors of Texas (ADoT), Education Deans of Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (EDICUT), Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (TACTE), and the other major Texas teacher groups.
TCEP provided a “Lunch and Learn” to legislative staffers this week in preparation for next week’s joint hearing of the House Public Education and Higher Education Committees on teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention. The presentation included background on the educator preparation landscape, recent policy issues such as edTPA, and recommendations for moving forward.
LEGISLATURE: On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Texas House Higher Education and Public Education Committees will hold a joint hearing to discuss an interim charge dedicated to teachers. Their charge is to: “Evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the state’s teacher workforce, and current practices to improve the recruitment, preparation, and retention of high-quality educators. Explore the impact of the educator preparation program regulatory environment. Make recommendations to improve educator recruitment, retention, and preparation throughout the state.”
Unfortunately, the hearing will take place when teachers are already back in the classroom and cannot make the trip to Austin to share their experiences. ATPE has been invited to testify at the hearing on the role of educator preparation in addressing teacher shortages. ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier will be highlighting the work and recommendations of the new Texas Coalition for Educator Preparation (TCEP).
THREATS: A number of Texas school districts were forced to respond to false threats of active shooter incidents this week, resulting in disruptions for students and panic for many parents. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating false claims of active shooter threats at schools in Houston, Dallas, Waco, and Pflugerville. In a media statement, the FBI’s Houston office said, “[L]aw enforcement is going to use all available resources to investigate a school threat until we determine whether it is real or not. Investigating hoax threats drains law enforcement resources and diverts us from responding to an actual crisis. Hoax threats can shut down school campuses, cause undue stress and fear to the public, and cost taxpayers a lot of money; not to mention ruin the future of those making the hoax threats as they’ll likely have a criminal record.”
NEWS: As we reported on Teach the Vote last month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has raised an available tax deduction for teachers’ classroom supplies from $250 to $300 this year. The federal government plans to increase the $300 limit in $50 increments in future years based on inflation. This week Midway ATPE President Shawn Bailey was interviewed by 25 News KXXV in Waco about the increase in a federal tax deduction for classroom supplies. Bailey said the increase was welcome news but that teachers regularly exceed the amount offered through the deduction. Watch the news story here.
Also this week, ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter spoke with KSAT News in San Antonio about the teacher shortage, noting that improvements need to be made both on the front end via educator preparation and on the back end ensuring classroom teachers are paid adequately.
TRS: The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees held its regular quarterly meeting in Austin this week. Highlights of the meeting’s discussions included statutorily requirement divestment, performance compensation, the opening of the first TRS satellite office in El Paso, a looming fiscal cliff for educator insurance premiums, and a conversation with former state demographer and economist Ray Perryman.
Senate Bill (SB) 13 and SB 19 were bills passed in 2021 to prohibit state entities from doing business with companies that are not supportive of the oil and gas industry or gun manufactures. Earlier this month, the Texas Comptroller released a list of financial firms he considered to be antagonistic to the fossil fuels industry. Per the new law, TRS will need to divest from any holdings it has with companies on the list or make a determination that divesting would not be in the fiduciary interest of the fund.
Earlier this year, state leaders granted access to $435 million in federal COVID-19 funds to TRS to maintain TRS-ActiveCare health insurance rates for the 2022-23 school year. However, after these one-time funds are gone, the rates for ActiveCare will spike in the 2023-24 school year. TRS and advocates such as ATPE have been informing lawmakers about the need to address this issue before it impacts Texas educators.
For more on the September TRS board meeting, click here to view board materials and archived video.
As we reported last week, TRS is hitting the road with UnitedHealthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, SilverScript, and CVS Caremark to conduct a series of health fairs exploring retiree health benefits in locations around the state. The free, in-person fairs will take place Sept. 20 through Oct. 20, 2022. TRS also hosts virtual webinars for retired educators to learn more about their 2023 plan benefits and get answers to their questions. Please visit TRS Health Care Events for dates, locations, registration links, and more.
Related: Check out the latest episode of The ATPE Podcast, in which ATPE's Monty Exter discusses the interplay between TRS and Social Security and ATPE’s advocacy on these retirement issues.
ELECTION: In the Nov. 8 general election, your votes for governor, lieutenant governor, state legislators, school board members, and more will determine how Texas addresses education issues next year and beyond. School safety, private school vouchers, educator pay, and curriculum are just a few of the issues at stake in this election, so make a plan now to vote.
Next Tuesday, Sept. 20, is National Voter Registration Day. Texas Secretary of State John Scott announced he will hold a press conference that morning in Austin to share details on the “VoteReady” statewide voter education campaign to help Texans learn about voter ID requirements.and voting by mail. The campaign includes grassroots interactive elements and a mobile digital truck that is touring the state ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Here are key election-related dates and deadlines to note:
- Recommended submission date for student election workers – Sept. 9
- National Voter Registration Day – Sept. 20
- Last day to register to vote – Oct. 11
- Vote by mail applications DUE – Oct. 28
- Early voting – Oct. 24-Nov. 4
- Educator Voting Day – Thursday, Oct. 27
- Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 8
Related: Students as young as 16 years old who meet certain requirements can be hired as student election workers, earning up to $17 an hour. Send in an application to serve as a student election worker as soon as possible!
SEPTEMBER: It’s time for National Hispanic Heritage Month and an opportunity for ATPE to celebrate the cultures, contributions, and history of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Observed Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, 2022, National Hispanic Heritage Month information can be found on the ATPE Blog here.
Next week is Constitution Week, created by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) as a way to emphasize U.S. citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution, and share knowledge about the history of the Constitution. ATPE has resources for celebrating Constitution Week in classrooms here.
Finally, ATPE is sharing information this September about National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country. ATPE is sharing resources from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on school-based efforts to prevent suicide and address mental health. Read more in this blog post. If you or someone you know is in a mental health emergency, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, or call 911 immediately.
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