Educators not only set future generations of Texans on a course for success but also serve as the backbone of our communities. As the leading educators’ association in Texas, ATPE advocates for classroom teachers, administrators, future, retired, and para-educators. Supporting the state’s largest community of educators who are dedicated to elevating public education in Texas, ATPE works to give our members the peace of mind needed to inspire student success.
ATPE’s advocacy on behalf of the Texas education profession comprises numerous elements:
- We regularly lobby lawmakers, members of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), and the Texas commissioner of education on regulatory aspects, such as educator preparation standards and curriculum, certification and continuing education requirements, and disciplinary rules for educators.
- Laws pertaining to contracts and evaluations have a profound impact on educators’ employment, too, and are another major focus of our advocacy work.
- ATPE continually fights for improved compensation and benefits for all Texas public school employees.
- We also work to ensure educators’ free speech rights are protected and that no state or federal laws will infringe on educators’ ability to be politically active, to join (or not join) professional associations, to advocate for their profession and their students, and to model good citizenship through voting and encouraging others to vote.
Educator quality, one of the leading predictors of student success, has long been a cornerstone of ATPE’s advocacy efforts. Through scientific research and listening to the experiences of our own members, ATPE has confirmed the importance of educator quality and the need for lawmakers and policymakers to place great emphasis on initiatives that support a high-quality public education workforce.
In 2008 and 2010, ATPE commissioned major research studies on teacher quality, its impact on student achievement and school improvement, and how teacher quality is distributed through Texas. The studies led by Dr. Ed Fuller, a noted education researcher, found a direct correlation between teacher quality and student achievement, especially at the secondary level and in the areas of math and science. Schools with high-poverty and high-minority student populations and schools struggling to meet accountability standards were found to have lower teacher quality measures than other schools. The research identified several best practices for school improvement centered on funding, teacher recruitment and retention initiatives, and the involvement of educators and parents in decision-making, among other recommendations.
Over the years, ATPE has advocated at the state and federal levels for prioritizing educator quality through various initiatives. These include setting appropriately selective entrance requirements for the education profession; providing meaningful induction and professional development for teachers; using financial resources to recruit and more equitably distribute a pool of diverse, high-quality educators; incorporating teacher quality measures into accountability systems; understanding and improving working conditions in schools; and offering the compensation and benefits—including upon retirement—that will raise the prestige of the education profession and reduce costly teacher turnover.
ATPE’s advocacy on behalf of educators begins with recognizing public school employees as professionals and basing our lobbying efforts on the input of our diverse membership. ATPE was founded in 1980 upon right-to-work principles and the belief that educators should not be coerced into joining a union as a condition of employment or in order to have a voice in shaping education policy at the local, state, or national level. ATPE opposes collective bargaining arrangements by which only one organization is authorized to negotiate with the management of a school district on matters such as compensation, employee benefits, and working conditions. We believe collective bargaining policies needlessly create an adversarial relationship between employees and employers and leave individual employees feeling compelled to join one particular organization in order to have their views represented.
Collective bargaining arrangements often rely on strikes and work stoppages to provide leverage in negotiations. As stated in our association’s bylaws, ATPE believes “strikes and boycotts, or the threats thereof, and organized work stoppages, actual or threatened, are detrimental to professional educators, to the students, and to the public served by professional educators.” Texas law actually prohibits collective bargaining by public school employees, as well as strikes or work stoppages. Educators who violate this law may face adverse employment actions as well as potential sanctions such as the loss of their teaching certificate or certain retirement benefits.
Although collective bargaining is not allowed in Texas public schools, a few school districts allow “consultation” agreements through which designated employee organizations may “meet and confer” with the district’s leadership on local policies and employment conditions. The input provided through the consultation process is considered advisory only and does not bind the school board to act in any way, which distinguishes these arrangements from illegal collective bargaining contracts. Some districts have exclusive consultation policies whereby one local group is selected—often through an election by the employees in the district—to exclusively represent all the district’s staff in those non-binding discussions. ATPE objects to exclusive consultation for many of the same reasons we oppose collective bargaining, but we do support inclusive consultation policies in which all employee organizations are allowed to consult with school boards on issues important to the organization’s members. Inclusive consultation protects educators from being coerced to join an organization that might not represent their beliefs and being forced to pay exorbitant union dues.
At the heart of our advocacy is ATPE’s belief that it takes an entire community to educate Texas’ children. This includes parents, the community, elected officials, school staff, and even employee organizations whose principles might differ from our own. ATPE’s professionalism has earned the respect of legislators and policymakers, reflecting a collaborative approach to advocacy that results in significant gains for educators.
Read our member-adopted ATPE Legislative Program to learn more about our positions on numerous issues that affect professional educators. Find additional information about ATPE’s advocacy efforts on our Teach the Vote blog.