About the Texas AFT Legislative Hotline

The Texas AFT Legislative Hotline is published by e-mail and to this site each business weekday (and some holidays and weekends when important news justifies a post) by the staff at the Texas American Federation of Teachers.

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Hotlines from August 20, 2010 to present may be found on the main site through the month links on the right navigation bar, or by using the search field.

Hotlines before that day may be found here.

 

The Hotline will take a break starting December 18. The next Hotline will be the one for January 5, 2015. Best wishes to all for the winter holiday break. … (read more…)

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More than 700 pieces of legislation already have been pre-filed for the 2015 legislative session starting on January 13 in Austin. Pre-filing by no means guarantees early action or indeed any action on these bills and resolutions. But it does attract attention, and here are some of the bills that have attracted ours since pre-filing began on November 10:

–School finance:  Sen. Kirk Watson, … (read more…)

It ought to be an embarrassment to federal and state policy-makers that teachers routinely have to reach into their own pockets to pay for classroom supplies required by their students.  The least those policy-makers ought to do is to provide some relief for the teachers who step and spend their own money for their students’ sake. And for a long time this year it seemed that even the modest … (read more…)

Last week Gov.-elect Greg Abbott held a quick press conference at the state capitol to introduce his incoming staffers and spell out some top budget priorities for the 2015 session. He asserted that education would be his number-one priority. But the picture of his priorities changed when it came to specifying actual dollars he wants to devote to education compared to other matters like … (read more…)

Amy Hightower, editor of the American Educator at AFT, provides an inviting preview of the new issue of AFT’s professional magazine for educators, hot off the presses:

Former AFT President Albert Shanker originally conceived of charter schools as places for enhancing teacher innovation and educating students from diverse backgrounds. But many charter … (read more…)

Under the constitutional amendment approved by Texas voters on November 4, half the oil and gas revenue that normally would flow into the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund can be diverted to highway projects, if a certain floor amount of money is maintained in the ESF (also known informally as the Rainy Day Fund). Defining that floor is a task assigned to a special joint committee of the Texas … (read more…)

Texas was not among 18 states announced as winners of federal pre-K expansion funding today.  Hence Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has failed in his effort to secure federal funding for pre-K voucher funding of private schools. Williams embedded a pre-K voucher scheme, for which there is no state legislative authorization or funding, in a grant application to the U.S. … (read more…)

For the second time in two years, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission has voted to recommend abolition of the State Board for Educator Certification. The commission, made up mostly of state legislators, has the task of weighing the effectiveness of state agencies and recommending changes or abolition. In the case of SBEC, the commission wants to hand control over educator certification to the … (read more…)

Please help preserve the federal income-tax deduction for school supplies purchased by teachers to help their students. How can you help? Here’s the explanation of what needs to be done, from AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker:

I used to buy all sorts of supplies for my seventh- and eighth-graders—from basics like pencils and notepads to materials … (read more…)

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Rapid growth in enrollment in Texas public schools continues, and the percentages of economically disadvantaged students and those for whom English is a second language keep rising, too. Between 2001 and 2011, enrollment in Texas grew more than five times as fast as enrollment nationwide. These are among the gleanings to be had from the Texas Education Agency’s latest demographic update, … (read more…)

smartmoney

A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality confirms what Texas teachers well know:  Teachers are undervalued and deserve more competitive pay.  The full report, “Smart Money: What Teachers Make, How Long It Takes and What It Buys Them,” is available online.

Here’s a key excerpt:

On average it … (read more…)

At a December 2 capitol briefing held by the Coalition for Public Schools legislators and legislative staffers got the lowdown on private-school voucher programs and on better options that—unlike voucher schemes—actually deliver improved education for students.

Leading scholars from across the nation reported that research on voucher schemes shows they offer no academic advantage over the … (read more…)

The ten elected state officials serving on the Texas Legislative Budget Board voted unanimously Monday to set a limit of 11.68 percent on growth in state spending for 2016-2017 over the 2014-2015 level. Their choice was the lowest of several possible growth-rate estimates presented as options by the LBB staff.

The decision, made by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus, four … (read more…)

AFT President Randi Weingarten used her November 16 “What Matters Most” column to lay out some home truths about the U.S. economy and the rising importance of career and technical education to help Americans get ahead. We reprint her column on “The Promise of Career and Technical Education” here:

On the surface, the latest jobs … (read more…)

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November 20 was a national day of action in support of community schools as an effective strategy for school improvement and an effective alternative to failed test-and-punish accountability policies. In Texas, community-school advocates including our Texas AFT affiliates in Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, and Austin ISD took part in the advocacy campaign.

The marquee event of the day in Texas was a … (read more…)

Setting a Cap on Spending Growth:  On December 1 the Legislative Budget Board, made up of legislative leaders and members of the Texas House and Senate, will set an important limit on the rate of growth in state spending for the coming two-year budget period (fiscal 2016-2017, beginning September 1, 2015). Unless a majority of lawmakers in each chamber vote specifically to … (read more…)

The State Board of Education by a split vote approved a batch of social-studies textbooks submitted by publishers after much debate and testimony pro and con. Some significant improvements were made on certain topics; for instance, the salience of conflict over slavery as a cause of the Civil War was clarified, and passages in some texts obscuring the strong scientific consensus on human activity … (read more…)

Trustees of the Texas Teacher Retirement System received a positive report from independent actuaries this week on the financial condition of the TRS pension fund. The pension trust fund earned an annual return of 16.8 percent and ended the 2014 fiscal year at a market value of $132.8 billion, up from $117.4 billion a year earlier. The fund’s actuarial soundness stems not only from such robust … (read more…)

Our friends at TexasISD.com, a valuable online source of Texas education news, have reported some interesting findings on the less well-known outcomes of this year’s elections. Many school bonds and tax-rate proposals were on the ballot, and the vast majority of them won the approval of voters.

Joe Smith of Texas ISD.com reports that more … (read more…)

Texas AFT President Linda Bridges issued this statement responding to President Obama’s speech on immigration policy Thursday evening:

President’s executive action on immigration is a needed first step for schools required by law to educate children of parents without legal status

The … (read more…)

While the State Board of Education continues to tussle the rest of this week over allegations of bias in proposed social-studies textbooks up for Board approval, other matters also are on the agenda. For example, Board members are deciding on their legislative recommendations for the 2015 session that will start January 13. On Wednesday Board members winnowed their wish list down to a tentative … (read more…)

The State Board of Education struggled Tuesday toward resolution of a raft of complaints about bias perceived in proposed textbooks up for Board approval. Many complaints from an earlier round of public testimony have been resolved, but others have emerged.

Publishers have corrected some language in draft textbooks that would have downplayed slavery as a cause of the Civil War. Also modified in … (read more…)

SenateEd

Soon-to-be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Houston Republican who currently chairs the Senate Education Committee, used that chairmanship to recycle some failed proposals Monday, including private-school vouchers in various guises. Sen. Patrick brought in witnesses who could be counted on to sing the praises of vouchers, charter-school expansion, and so-called “parent trigger” laws that allow public … (read more…)

Transparency is important when it comes to making decisions about our economy, jobs, safety, and the environment. Unfortunately, in the current lame-duck session of Congress, we expect corporations to push for a policy that undercuts the public’s voice on international trade agreements through what they call “fast-track” legislation.

(read more…)

The staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended legislative changes in the operations of the Texas Education Agency and State Board for Educator Certification at a commission hearing Wednesday. Texas AFT will testify tomorrow in support of some proposed changes but in opposition to others.

Of special concern is the proposed abolition of the certification board and handover of its … (read more…)

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