Legislative wrap: Redistricting continues as state Senate/SBOE maps move forward; Gov. wants voting mistake penalties increased
After several days of public and invited testimony, the Senate Redistricting Committee approved maps for the State Board of Education (SBOE) and state Senate districts this Tuesday. The committee approved the SBOE map unanimously, but the Senate district map was approved by a 12 to 2 margin after being amended by the committee. Both maps will likely see changes before they are finally approved by both houses of the Legislature and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed.
One of the primary points of controversy in the newly proposed map was its treatment of Senate District 10, represented by Sen. Beverly Powell. The district, currently situated firmly in Tarrant County, was redrawn to contain more conservative voters from surrounding counties. Sen. Powell stated the proposed map would be “a direct assault on the voting rights of minority citizens in Senate District 10 and, if adopted, it would be an act of intentional discrimination.”
In response to the proposed Senate map, the Texas Civil Rights Project stated: “In keeping with the Texas record of drawing discriminatory maps, the proposed [Senate] map does not give new representation to the exploding communities of color in Ft. Bend, Brazoria, Tarrant, & Collin Counties. Instead, it violently rips apart these communities to decrease their representation.”
The proposed State Board of Education map, which is made up of 15 districts, did not make any significant changes to the current racial majority breakdown of the districts, but did make significant changes to the partisan breakdown. According to an analysis by the Texas Tribune, “Seven of the 15 (SBOE) districts went to Biden during the 2020 general election, but if the new proposal were in place, it would have lowered that number to five.”
This week proposed maps for U.S. congressional districts and Texas House districts were released by Republicans Sen. Joan Huffman and Rep. Todd Hunter. The congressional map adds two new districts, bringing the total number to 38 after Texas was reapportioned two new congressional seats due to population increases in the state.
Despite the fact that 95% of the state’s population growth over the past 10 years came from communities of color, the proposed maps would reduce the amount of House districts in which people of color are the majority. This is the first time since the Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965 that the Texas Legislature was allowed to redistrict without first getting federal approval.
Governor adds increased penalties for voting mistakes to special session agenda
Although Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in the previous special session—SB 1—that reduced penalties for illegal voting, he nevertheless has added to this special session’s agenda the call to increase them.
Abbott apparently is not content with the Legislature’s move that decreased the penalty from a second-degree felony (punishable for up to 20 years in prison) to a Class A Misdemeanor (punishable up to 1 year in jail). The intent was to allow flexibility in punishment for voters who make honest mistakes—such as not realizing they are ineligible to vote.
House Speaker Dade Phelan, however, tweeted yesterday that he didn’t want to revisit the issue. “Instead, the House will remain focused on its constitutional obligation to pass redistricting maps, and members look forward to fulfilling this critical task.”
Texas Education Agency considers rules that weaken charter accountability for special ed and ESL
The Texas Education Agency has proposed changes to the Charter School Performance Framework (CSPF) that leave out consideration of two important student groups: students receiving special education services and students in bilingual education/English as a second language.
The indicators within the CSPF are supposed to evaluate each charter school’s compliance with federal law, state law, state rules or regulations, and/or the charter contract. However, the proposed changes strike program indicators for bilingual and special education populations from the operations standards. In other words, this Charter School Performance Framework focuses on school operations and not on academic performance for these two major student groups. Charters have a long record of educating fewer students with special needs and fewer language learners. Rather than abandoning these students groups, the CSPF needs stronger indicators to hold charter schools, with no elected board oversight, accountable for properly serving these student groups.
Read the full Charter Framework Manual here.
TEA will hold a virtual public hearing on these proposed changes to the Charter School Performance Framework (CSPF) at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 4, and Texas AFT will be there to testify. You can watch the hearing on Zoom. Those wishing to testify must register here by 9 a.m. on the day of the hearing.
Texas AFT members are strongly encouraged to submit their opinions and voice opposition to this new rule by sending an online letter to TEA.
Friend of public education moves to runoff in San Antonio House district
Texas AFT congratulates Frank Ramirez on moving to a runoff in the special election for HD 118 in San Antonio (election date to be determined). Ramirez was also endorsed by the San Antonio Central Labor Council. Ramirez worked in the Texas Legislature serving as a legislative director and then as chief of staff for House District 118.If you are an educator in San Antonio and want to keep HD 118 firmly in the hands of a pro-public education candidate, please join us in volunteering for Ramirez’s campaign.
Pol. Ad. paid for by Texas AFT COPE.
Enter to win $2,000 toward DonorsChoose projects
Texas AFT corporate supporter, Horace Mann, is kicking off the new school year with $10,000 in DonorsChoose funding! Still have some items on your wish list? Enter your DonorsChoose project from September 13 to October 8 for your chance to win. Every day from October 4 through October 8, Horace Mann will draw winners and fund at least $2,000 in DonorsChoose projects!
Best wishes for a great school year! Enter today!
Official rules can be found at horacemann.com/teacher-lounge/giveaways. No purchase necessary to enter or win. Not valid in Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico or West Virginia. Must be at least 18 years of age or older to enter. Please note: Your school and/or district may have guidelines around DonorsChoose funding. Please ensure you are adhering to all pertinent policies and procedures.
Horace Mann Service Corporation and certain of its affiliates (Horace Mann) enter into agreements with educational associations where Horace Mann pays the association to provide services aimed at familiarizing association members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services. For more information, email your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridges Institute offers Mindfulness Essentials series
The Bridges Institute will be hosting the Mindfulness Essentials series via Zoom next month. The series started on Wednesday and will continue each Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., throughout the months of September and October. These free instructive webinars will help participants better understand their mind and emotions. CPE credit will be issued per hour of participation. Sign up for the webinars here.
In addition to the instructive webinars, The Bridges Institute will also host weekly practice sessions in which participants can take part in guided meditation. These sessions begin September 20 and occur on subsequent Mondays, from 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., throughout the months of September and October. Sign up for the practice sessions here.