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Dates of Interest

85th Legislature convenes - Jan. 10, 2017

85th Legislature adjourns  - May 29, 2017

Who Represents Me?

Find out who represents you in the Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives, the Texas delegation to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and the State Board of Education at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

How to Stay Informed of the Legislative Process

When the legislature is in session, the Texas Legislature Online (TLO) home page will include the time that the House and Senate are scheduled to convene each day. Methods to view introduced legislation include:

Legislative Reports - View a list of bills that have been filed in the House or Senate.

  • Bill Status - View the current status and legislative history for a bill.
  • Text Search - Find bills with specific content.
  • Subject Search - Find bills on a specific subject using the bill search or the subject  index.

You can create a personal bill list and receive e-mail notification as the status changes on bills you chose to watch at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/MnuMyTLO.aspx Most committee meetings are available for viewing over the Internet on the House and Senate websites. 

85th Legislative Session
Letter from The Coalition of Public Schools
05/23/2017

View letter from The Coalition of Public Schools here.

May 23, 2017

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the undersigned organizations, encourage House members to oppose any action that would enable the Senate-passed version of House Bill 21 (HB21) to become law. We oppose this bill for the following reasons: 

  • The Senate version of HB21 is a woefully inadequate school finance bill that cut more than $1 billion in state education funding from the HB21 that passed the House. Although Senate leaders claim their version of HB21 increases funding for Texas public schools by more than $500 million, that represents a billion dollar cut from the House plan that increased state education funding by at least $1.6 billion in education funding.

  • To add insult to injury, the Senate made HB21 a voucher vehicle in addition to being a woefully inadequate school finance bill. By including an Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher in HB21, the Senate majority voted for a plan that would drain millions of dollars away from Texas public schools. Based on an estimated 450,000 special education students who attend Texas public schools, the costs could be enormous over time. Beginning in the second year of operation of the voucher program, Texas school districts stand to lose over $37.4 million annually if 1 percent of eligible students opted for ESA vouchers; over $74.9 million annually if 2 percent opted for ESA vouchers; and over $112.4 million annually if 3 percent opted for ESA vouchers. See more details at http://bit.ly/2ppqelh.

  • Furthermore, by including students covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in this ESA voucher program, millions more in additional costs could be added. Section 504 covers any student deemed to have a physical or mental impairment that “substantially” limits one or more major life activity (e.g. asthma, hearing loss, anxiety, food allergy, etc.). These 504 students make up a fast-growing segment of our student population. Should an ESA voucher remain in HB21 and become law, any parent that can get their student classified as 504 for any reason could use an average of $8300 per year of taxpayer funds to attend a private or religious school.

  • Parents and students would give up their federal protections under an ESA. Students with disabilities in special education who receive an ESA voucher under CSHB 21 would give up their federal protections upon exiting the public school.  This includes their rights to due process under admissions, review and dismissal (ARD) committees and other federal protections. All federal protections under IDEA would disappear once the student exits the public school system. This includes the right to related services like counseling; speech, occupational and physical therapy; the right to instructional supports like assistive technology and accommodated or modified curriculum; the right for the parent to be involved in the development of the child’s education plan; the right to a transition plan to ready the student for post-graduation independence and success; and due process rights if the parent disagrees with the school’s plan.

  • There is no accountability for ESA vouchers. Private and religious schools that would access taxpayer dollars through The Senate’s HB21 ESA are not accountable to the state in the same way as public schools. The Senate’s ESA voucher plan would allow these schools to receive taxpayer funds while not meeting the same curriculum or fiscal requirements of a Texas public school. Texans believe that any school that receive tax dollars should be held accountable, but the schools that receive vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers. Schools receiving vouchers would not be responsible for monitoring the overrepresentation of African American students in special education; monitoring students with disabilities being overrepresented in discipline settings; monitoring graduation rates and assessment performance and evaluation timelines; or monitoring students with disabilities who are not placed in segregated settings.

  • The Senate’s ESA voucher violates the separation of church and state and the First Amendment. The ESA voucher added to HB21 provides monies that can be used in any private or religious school. ESAs provide no disallowance for religious content or services. Taxpayer funds used for religious content or services violate the First Amendment. Under this ESA plan, taxpayer funds would be available for students to attend a Christian school, an Islamic Madras, a school run by Scientologists, a Wiccan school, etc.

For these reasons, we vigorously encourage House members to oppose any effort to approve HB21 as it passed the Senate with and any effort to include an ESA or any other form of a private school voucher in HB21 or any other bill. The list of organizations signing on to this letter is attached. 


Charles Luke, Ed.D.

Coalition for Public Schools

M: 940-768-8594

ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSING CSHB 21

Texas School Coalition

American Association of University Women

American Civil Liberties Union of Texas

American Jewish Committee

American Jewish Congress

Americans for Religious Liberty

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Association of Texas Professional Educators

Center for Public Policy Priorities

Delta Kappa Gamma Texas

Equity Center

Fast Growth School Coalition

Friends of Texas Public Schools

HillCo Partners

Jewish Federation of San Antonio Community Relations Council

League of Women Voters of Texas

Make Education a Priority

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

National Council of Jewish Women

Pastors for Peace

Pastors for Texas Children

People for the American Way Foundation

Texas AFL-CIO

Texas AFT

Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented

Texas Association of Community Schools

Texas Association of Mid-size Schools

Texas Association of School Administrators

Texas Association of School Boards

Texas Association of Secondary School Principals

Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission

Texas Classroom Teachers Association

Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education

Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association

Texas Freedom Network

Texas Impact

Texas Kids Can’t Wait

Texas Latino Education Coalition

Texas PTA

Texas Retired Teachers Association

Texas Rural Education Association

Texas School Public Relations Association

Texas Speech-Language-Hearing-Association

Texas State Teachers Association







From the Superintendent: Texas Senate Bill 3
02/15/2017

 

Texas Senate Bill 3

  • Filed by Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood
  • Commonly referred to as “School Choice” legislation
  • Would provide Education Savings Accounts (Vouchers) to a very small percentage of Texas families

GCCISD’s position:

  • Taxpayer money intended for public schools would be diverted to private institutions that don’t have the same accountability requirements as public schools (such as the STAAR test)
  • Local property taxes are paid by home and business owners for the creation of a constitutionally mandated system of free public schools in Texas. Siphoning those tax dollars away from local public school students and decreasing the transparency and accountability of those tax dollars is not consistent with the fiscally responsible nature of Texans.
  • Vouchers, and the broader issue of school choice, are being touted as the “civil rights issue of the 21st century” because they would provide poor children with an “escape from failing schools.” However, the amount of a voucher would not be enough to cover tuition at most private schools. Only more affluent families with the means to pay the balance of their children’s tuition would truly benefit. This would leave the very children vouchers are supposed to help left behind in schools with even less funding than before. Vouchers are an entitlement that would benefit very few – in fact, really only the very wealthy.
  • Private schools are the ones that have a choice with vouchers. They may or may not enroll any student they choose. Those with track records of academic failure, those with disabilities, and those who are difficult to teach due to behavioral issues would not be the top choices of private schools with limited space. Those children, the ones who need the most attention, would be left behind in schools lacking the resources to provide them with what they need.
  • At a time when the state’s public schools are being held to increasingly rigorous accountability standards, lawmakers should not allow public, taxpayer dollars to be spent at private or religious schools that do not have to meet the same standards – either for students or for teachers.
  • Private schools do not exist in every part of Texas, especially in rural areas. If a voucher program is created, fly-by-night private schools could pop up across the state, offering “choice” while profiting from public tax dollars. In fact, some might question whether the push to create a voucher program is truly motivated by a desire to help poor children, or if it is really a scheme designed to siphon public funds for private gain.
  • Vouchers would take millions of dollars away from Texas public schools – many of which are already underfunded and struggling to pay for the basics needed to educate students.
  • Vouchers – regardless of what names they may be given – are a betrayal of trust. Texans believe that their tax dollars are going to support public school students. The state should never redirect those tax dollars to private schools or other unaccountable institutions.
  • Vouchers are a disingenuous way to take money from the 5.3 million students who attend public schools.
  • Voucher plans will ultimately create a new entitlement program that will cost Texans dearly.

Public schools AREN’T “failing” – don’t believe the hype.
Keep Our Public School Dollars In Our Public Schools

Should you wish to contact your state representatives, below is a simple, suggested script that is suitable either for an email or a phone message:

“Hi, my name is _________. I’m e registered voter residing at __________ in _______, Texas. My phone number is __________. I am against any state voucher plan, savings grants, or any program that diverts public tax dollars to private entities, homeschool students, or parents with little or no academic or financial accountability to the state, taxpayers, or local communities.”

NOT SURE WHO TO CONTACT? 
Enter your address in the link below and your elected officials,
including contact information, will be listed. 
http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/


Open Letter to Legislators
01/06/2017
An open letter to the 85th Texas Legislature:

Very shortly, you will convene in Austin to begin the start of a new legislative session that will determine the future course of our state. I don’t envy your job.

But I do have a request: This time around, please don’t forget about Texas children. Frankly, they deserve better than they’ve gotten from state leaders in recent legislative sessions.

There are many issues related to Texas public schools ahead of us, and you have big decisions to make. I’d like to point out a handful of the matters that you’re likely to discuss, debate and ultimately decide on. I also want to provide you with my viewpoint as Superintendent, so that you can better understand how the votes you cast will either enhance educational opportunities or prove detrimental to the 23,000 kids in our district.

School funding: Yes, it’s time to talk funding again. It’s hard for me to comprehend that the mere mention of better funding to educate students can elicit such strong reactions.

As Texas homeowners know all too well, property taxes have skyrocketed in our state and yet, school funding has declined, which makes no sense. We’re near the top of the list in the nation in terms of property tax rates, but very close to the bottom when it comes to funding the education of our children.

This time around, given that our legislature only convenes every two years, why not take a fresh look at how our schools are funded? As you’re probably aware, the Texas Supreme Court was recently compelled to rule on school financing due to lawsuits filed by school districts across the State. The court’s decision proclaimed our funding system “byzantine” but “constitutional,” but went on to say that it didn’t wish to usurp legislative authority. That means the court kicked it back to you. Honestly, our state leaders have been playing kick-the-can with funds for our children’s education for far too long. I’m appealing with the 85th class to end the game and work together to provide adequate, equitable funding for Texas classrooms, end unfunded mandates and accurately reflect the cost of education based on populations served.
The A-F accountability system: The new accountability system included in House Bill 2804 adopted in the last legislative session leaves more questions than answers, but here’s what we understand so far: The new system isn’t scheduled to go into effect until the 2017-2018 school year, meaning that the first grades shouldn’t be available until the start of the 2018 school year. However, districts across the state were surprised very recently to learn that they have already been assigned mock “grades” based on incomplete data in a convoluted grading system that, instead of providing transparency to parents, is confusing and somewhat arbitrary. Rather than an innovative accountability system that accurately reflects the outstanding things happening in our schools, the A-F system will still be most heavily weighted on results of the STAAR test.

Unfortunately, as you might recall, the most recent administration of that test was horrific, with online answers being deleted, tests being misdelivered, lost boxes of completed tests -- so many problems, in fact, that Commissioner of Education Mike Morath waved a white flag and agreed that testing requirements for fifth and eighth graders would be scrapped. (However, those results were still included in the mock “grades” districts recently released by the TEA.)

By the way, the State of Texas slapped the New Jersey-based developer and administrator of the STAAR test with a $20.7 million fine, which I guess is fair considering that the company has a state contract worth about $280 million to administer the test over the next few years. So, it is difficult to conceive that as adults we may be incapable of properly administering a test, but we still judge our children on their performance on that same test?

We can already predict what the “new” accountability results will show under the A-F: Schools in property-wealthy district will receive A’s, while more diverse schools will not. It’s not going to be a surprise. It hasn’t been in any of the other states that have already implemented A-F systems.

We believe in some sort of accountability system, and we stand behind our commitment to provide an exceptional education to all children, but we could use your help with respect to accurately measuring and truthfully reporting our results. Why not develop a system that accurately reflects the success of Texas schools rather than using data from a single test, administered one day, to about half of the student population? Let’s look at recognizing schools for implementing innovative programs, introducing new technology, increasing graduation rates and other, more valuable metrics.

Vouchers: We’ve been hearing the phrase “school choice” for years. I’m incredibly proud of how hard we work in public education to offer choices for our kids. Programs like Fine Arts and Athletics provide kids with an opportunity for creative learning and the chance to compete. Career and Technology programs allow students to graduate high school well prepared for a future high-wage career. Advanced Placement courses prepare kids for academic success in college. Dual credit programs enable kids to earn college credit while still in high school, helping to relieve some of the financial burden of higher education, which has soared in Texas in recent years. And I haven’t touched on many of the other student organizations and activities that students in Texas public schools can take advantage of to foster leadership skills and become well-rounded, productive members of our communities.

The proposal to provide vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts out of taxpayer funds to alleviate some of the high cost of private or charter schools sounds great, except for one huge thing. You aren’t requiring those same private and for-profit institutions to administer a STAAR test or holding them to the same accountability metrics as public schools. So, they won’t be playing by the same rules as are required of us, and yet, they will receive all or partial funding through taxpayer funds.

Let’s be honest, because I don’t believe the Texas taxpaying public is ignorant. Vouchers will only benefit the wealthiest school children in the wealthiest areas – you know, your kids and the kids of your colleagues. In public education, “all” truly means “all” and we are firmly committed to providing the best quality education for all kids who come through our doors, regardless of intellectual, physical or emotional ability. And we do that with passion, kindness and a deep-rooted belief that all kids deserve the opportunity to succeed, not just the mega-wealthy.

Perhaps I’m biased, but as a native Houstonian I believe Texas is the greatest state in the nation. I’m hoping as an elected state official, you believe that, too. I’m also hoping that as you consider the future of our state, you realize that our current schoolchildren are the next generation of leaders and that you’re willing to invest in them.


A-F Talking Points
01/05/2017
A Guide to Frequently Asked Questions
About the State’s “New” Accountability System
             
Background:
In 2015, the 84h Texas Legislature adopted House Bill 2804, which enacted another new accountability system for Texas schools. This new system was set to take effect with the 2017-2018 school year, so schools actually wouldn’t be receiving a letter grade until 2018.
             
So What’s With the Grades That Were Just Released?
In late December, the TEA dropped a bombshell on Texas schools, saying that it would release a “what if” scenario, giving schools a letter grade in early January 2017 – ironically, just before the 85th Texas legislature convened.
             
Here’s why GCCISD (and every other school district that we know of in the state of Texas), is crying foul over the “mock grades:
  •  A-F ratings systems are based on once-per-year STAAR test scores. How does that reflect an entire campus’s performance when only about half the students take the test in any given year? And for the “mock grades,” the state used 2015 -2016 test scores even though it was the state who said that the administration of the test was so bad, they wouldn’t count fifth and eighth grade test scores!
  • A-F rating systems aren’t a grade. They rely upon pages and pages of confusing computations that don’t make sense to parents who don’t have access to all of the rules and calculations. It is not graded in the 100 percent scale that most citizens would equate to a letter grade.
  • Without fail, grades in an A-F system will align with wealth or poverty and will likely punish less advantaged schools simply for being, well, disadvantaged. Wealthy schools are judged as good while poorer schools are judged as bad…
    … and that’s exactly what has happened in other states that have implemented A-F systems. So, why would Texas want to implement a system that has flopped in other states?
  • A-F systems label entire neighborhoods and create a false impression about children. The reduction of a school to a single letter grade unfairly reduces every student to the school’s assigned grade.
  • What about the A students on a C campus or even yet in a C district that is home to A campuses?

 A-F is anything but transparent. The state has indicated that they want a simplified system that provides more transparency but this is nothing more than yet another accountability system (piled on top of multiple other accountability systems) that is anything but transparent. 


   

A-F Doesn't Reflect True School Performance
01/02/2017
January 2, 2017
 
Goose Creek CISD Family:
 
Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 is your best year yet!
 
I hate to start the new year on a negative note, but I want to let you know about a pending issue that will likely have an impact on our schools. I believe it’s in our collective best interest that our entire community is educated about what’s happening in public education in the state of Texas. 
 
A bit of background:
In 2015, the Texas state legislature adopted a new public school accountability system, which is scheduled to go into effect at the start of the 2017-2018 school year. This new system assigns a letter grade (A-F) to every campus in the state, as well as to each district. In December, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released a list of five indicators that will be used for the new accountability system. While these other indicators will be weighted, the accountability system still relies most heavily on STAAR test performance for a portion of our student population. More on that in a moment.
 
This week, the TEA is expected to release “provisional reports” that allegedly represent a “draft” of the accountability system: In other words, if this system were already in place, what letter grade would each campus receive? These results will include data from the 2015-2016 school year, and do not include the results of all five of the domains the state itself said we’re being measured on. Simply put, the state is issuing “grades” with incomplete data and without even fully deciding exactly how this new accountability system will work. That’s the equivalent of a teacher giving an assignment and then deciding later how the students in his or her class will be graded.
 
As far as the STAAR test is concerned, all of our campuses “Met Standard” following the 2015-2016 administration of the test for the third straight year. “Met Standard” is the highest ranking that can be achieved under the current accountability system. Make no mistake: We’re proud of our results, but the test itself is fundamentally flawed and this past year’s administration was a disaster. You can read more about that here, here and here. If the TEA can’t administer a reliable test, why should our kids be judged on it?
 
In addition, several states have tried to implement an A-F accountability system with very mixed results. Why, then, is Texas going backward instead of forward with respect to school accountability, especially at a time when, by the Texas Supreme Court’s own admission, “Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement”?
 
Regardless of what accountability system the state puts in place, Goose Creek CISD will always stick to our mission of delivering the best quality education to all students. We will always work to foster learning environments in every classroom, every day. We are less concerned about state-mandated tests than we are about providing your child with the knowledge, skills and tools he or she needs to be successful.
 
The 85th state legislative session begins in a few days. It is my hope that our newly elected officials repeal A-F and work together to design a state accountability system that accurately reflects the outstanding achievements in our public schools. Please check our district’s website for more information about issues affecting our schools as the session progresses.
 
As always, thank you for your support of our schools and our students, as well as for your patience as we all try to figure out the new accountability system.
 
Sincerely,
Randal O’Brien
Superintendent of Schools
Goose Creek ConsolidatedIndependent School District>
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To view letter, click here.

A-F No Refleja el Rendimiento Escolar Verdadero
01/02/2017
Familia de Goose Creek CISD:

¡Feliz año nuevo! ¡Espero que el año 2017 sea un buen año!

No me gusta iniciar el comienzo de un año nuevo con una nota negativa, pero quiero informarle sobre un tema pendiente que probablemente impactará a nuestras escuelas. Creo que es para nuestro interés colectivo que toda nuestra comunidad sea educada sobre lo que está sucediendo en la educación pública del estado de Texas.

Profundizando un poco:
En el 2015, la legislatura estatal de Texas adoptó un nuevo sistema de medidas de desempeño de las escuelas públicas, el cual está programado para entrar en efecto al comienzo del año escolar 2017-2018. Este nuevo sistema asigna un grado de letra (A-F) a cada escuela del estado, así como a cada distrito. En diciembre, la Agencia de Educación de Texas (TEA) publicó una lista de cinco criterios que se utilizarán para el nuevo sistema de medidas de desempeño. Si bien estos otros indicadores serán tomados en cuenta, para una porción de los estudiantes el sistema de medidas de desempeño se basará más en los resultados de las pruebas STAAR. Le informaremos más en su momento.

Esta semana, se espera que TEA publique "un informe provisional" que supuestamente representa un "borrador" de este sistema de medida de desempeño: En otras palabras, si este sistema ya estuviera en efecto, ¿qué grado de letra recibirá cada escuela? Estos resultados incluirán datos del año escolar del 2015-2016 y no incluirán los resultados de los cinco criterios que el estado dijo que usaría para medir nuestro desempeño. En pocas palabras, el estado está emitiendo "grados" con datos incompletos y sin siquiera decidir exactamente cómo funcionará este nuevo sistema de medidas de desempeño. Ése es el equivalente de un maestro dando una asignatura y luego más tarde decide como el estudiante será calificado.

En lo que respecta a la prueba STAAR, todas nuestras escuelas "cumplieron con la norma" después de la administración de la prueba del 2015-2016 por tres años consecutivos. "Met Standard" es la clasificación más alta que se puede lograr bajo el sistema de medidas de desempeño. Sin lugar a dudas: estamos orgullosos de nuestros resultados, pero la prueba en sí esta fundamentalmente fallida y la administración del año pasado fue un desastre. Puedes leer más sobre eso aquí,aquí yaquí. Si TEA no puede administrar una prueba confiable, ¿por qué deberían nuestros estudiantes ser juzgarnos con dicha prueba?

Además, varios estados han tratado de implementar un sistema de medidas de desempeño de A-F con resultados muy variables. ¿Por qué, entonces, está Texas retrocediendo en lugar de avanzar con respecto al sistema de medidas de desempeño, especialmente en un momento en que, según la propia Corte Suprema de Texas, “nuestro sistema de financiación escolar Bizantino es innegablemente imperfecto, con inmenso margen de mejora”?

Independientemente del sistema de medidas de desempeño que el estado establezca, Goose Creek CISD siempre se aferra a nuestra misión de ofrecer la mejor calidad de educación para todos los estudiantes. Trabajaremos siempre para fomentar entornos de aprendizaje en cada salón de clase, todos los días. Estamos menos preocupados por las pruebas estatales que por proveer a su hijo con el conocimiento, las habilidades y las herramientas que él o ella necesita para tener éxito.

La sesión legislativa del estado #85 empieza en unos días. Tengo la esperanza de que nuestros funcionarios recién elegidos revoquen los grados de A-F y trabajen juntos para diseñar un sistema estatal de medidas de desempeño que refleje con precisión los logros sobresalientes en nuestras escuelas públicas. Por favor, consulte el sitio web del distrito para obtener más información sobre los problemas que afectan a nuestras escuelas a medida que avanza la sesión.

Como siempre, gracias por su apoyo a nuestras escuelas y nuestros estudiantes, así como por su paciencia ya que todos tratamos de averiguar el nuevo sistema de medidas de desempeño.

Atentamente,
Randal O’Brien
Superintendente de Escuelas
Distrito Escolar Independiente Consolidado de Goose Creek
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Para leer la carta, oprima aqui.

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