Topic: Government

Flawed Social-Studies Standards Earn a “D” in National Study

A conservative-leaning think tank has come out with a scathing report on the quality of the new social-studies standards adopted amidst much controversy last year by the State Board of Education. (Texas AFT strongly opposed these social-studies standards.) The Thomas B. Fordham Institute this week denounced the new Texas curriculum guidelines as a “politicized distortion of history offering misrepresentations at...

Read More

Budget Damage Inventory: TRS Retirees

The draft version of the state budget in both House and Senate would cut in half the state’s contribution to the TRS-Care health plan for retirees. The state currently contributes the equivalent of 1 percent of active employees’ payroll. (Active employees themselves contribute 0.65 percent, their employers 0.55 percent.) Cutting the state’s share to half of 1 percent would have...

Read More

TRS Pensions, Health Benefits Under Scrutiny at State Capitol—Let Facts Trump Ideology

It’s no secret that operatives on the far right of the political spectrum see the current state revenue shortfall as a heaven-sent opportunity to shrink and shirk state obligations. One of their prime targets is the defined-benefit pension program run by the Teacher Retirement System. They have tried to capitalize on scary headlines from other states such as Illinois, where...

Read More

Changes May Be On the Way at the State Board of Education

The State Board of Education meets next week in Austin with a number of new members likely to give deliberations a somewhat more moderate cast. One of them, Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, knocked out one of the leaders of the extreme-right faction on the Board in a hard-fought Republican primary last year. Another, Democrat Michael Soto of San Antonio,...

Read More

Stopgap Federal Education Aid

Right before the holiday break the U.S. Senate and House passed a stopgap bill to continue federal education funding until March 4 without increases above levels from the previous fiscal year. The Congress that gets sworn in tomorrow will make the final decisions on federal funding for the balance of the current fiscal year, which began last October 1. Prospects...

Read More

One Last Try for the DREAM Act

A key bill left for dead last week has undergone a resurrection, thanks to quick action by grass-roots advocates and their allies in Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the DREAM Act again as a brand-new bill—one that would gives thousands of immigrant children access to the higher education they need to contribute to our society. The latest...

Read More

Federal Education Funding on the Chopping Block in 2011

A bid to provide full-year education funding for fiscal 2011, including some needed increases, failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday. The education funding was part of an omnibus bill containing funds for many different government programs. The Senate could not muster the supermajority of 60 members needed to overcome procedural obstacles to the bill’s consideration. It now appears that the...

Read More

Tax Compromise Passes, With Education Items Included

The compromise on tax policy passed by Congress this week has a couple of little-noted provisions affecting education that you should know about. Here’s how the Wall Street Journal described one of them: “Through 2011, teachers will still be able to file for up to $250 in deductions for classroom expenses related to books, supplies, computer equipment and other materials....

Read More

Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids

An important update of federal child-nutrition law took effect this month, with unanimous support in the U.S. Senate and with bipartisan backing in the U.S. House. The legislation better connects eligible children with free school meals. The law also expands and improves breakfast programs. It helps make headway against childhood obesity and improves the nutritional value of meals by strengthening...

Read More

U.S. Senate Vote Coming on Education Aid—Protect Your Students, Urge Support

Over the next week, Congress will decide funding levels for federal education aid to states and school districts. The legislative department at the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, D.C., says three options are being considered: (1) continue funding at current levels; (2) provide slight increases in an omnibus budget bill; or (3) provide a short-term extension into next year...

Read More

TRS Experiments Need Review Before Legislative Extension or Expansion

Texas Teacher Retirement System trustees today signed off on the system's legislative wish list for the 2011 session, prominently including proposals to extend TRS authority to hire outside, private investment managers and to invest in futures, options, and similar derivative financial products. Texas AFT legislative spokesman Ted Melina Raab testified that Texas AFT cannot support any extension of such authority...

Read More

TRS Pension Fund Shows Big Gains, But Benefit Improvements Still Lag

The Texas Teacher Retirement System’s pension fund has made big gains over the past year. As of September 30, the fund had recorded a gain of more than 12 percent—well above the annual target of 8 percent called for by TRS actuarial consultants, and better than the rate of return on any other major public pension fund in the nation....

Read More