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TASB Legislative Report

TEA Releases Preliminary A-F Ratings

After school officials has about a week to review their preliminary A-F state accountability ratings, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) today released those ratings to the public. As was predicted before the legislation was passed, many schools were rated lower than what some would have expected, and media outlets seized upon the negative aspects of the results. “School districts across the state got lackluster grades under the state’s newest accountability system that debuts Friday,” reported The Austin American-Statesman. TASB Executive Director James B. Crow stated that the A-F system is a flawed concept and that they provide little information about schools. “There are 1,028 school districts in Texas, and no two are exactly the same. Trying to apply the same accountability measures primarily based on one standardized test is a disservice to our kids, their families, and our educators,” Crow said.

The preliminary ratings include four of the five domains by which schools will be graded. No cumulative grade will be provided until the actual A-F ratings are released after the 2017-18 school year. TEA provided this overview of the A-F system. There is also more useful information on the accountability system on its Accountability Resources site. Commissioner Mike Morath released a statement saying the preliminary ratings are for “informational purposes to meet a legislative requirement and represent work-in-progress models that are likely to change” before the final ratings.

Meanwhile, The Houston Chronicle took this opportunity to ask legislators to scrap the A-F system in this editorial.

Patrick, Kolkhorst Introduce Transgender Bathroom Bill

In a press conference this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) introduced Senate Bill 6, which would require people to use the restroom associated with their biological sex as opposed to their gender. This would apply to restrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities, but not convention centers, stadiums and entertainment venues – as government-owned buildings leased to outside entities would be exempt. Read more.

Comptroller to Release Biennial Revenue Estimate on Monday

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar will announce his biennial revenue estimate at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 9. The estimate quantifies the money available to be used by the upcoming legislature. You may recall that the Legislative Budget Board set the constitutional spending limit at $99.8 billion.

Congress is Up and Running

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is the new chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. As part of the committee’s initial actions, Foxx expressed strong concerns regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rule on Supplement, not Supplant (SNS) as part of its implementation efforts for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This matter will likely be a priority for the committee, as well as for the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-NC) has discussed plans to utilize the Congressional Review Act to intercept the proposed SNS rule. For K-12 education, the education committees are also slated to continue work on legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Program. Child nutrition reauthorization will also be a focus of the Education and the Workforce Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee.

DeVos Confirmation Hearing Scheduled

The Senate HELP Committee will begin proceedings to confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the position of Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. DeVos fully supports school vouchers, and has been involved in several organizations promoting school choice and charter schools. For several weeks, DeVos and members of the Trump transition team have been meeting with senators on both sides of the aisle in preparation for confirmation deliberations. Watch the hearing.

Three Reasons to Attend Advocacy Institute

The Advocacy Institute provides an opportunity for local school board members to learn about important education issues and advocate on behalf of their schools at the federal level. Here are three reasons why it is more important than ever to attend:

1. The 115th Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, including more than 50 new Members and new chairs of the House Education & the Workforce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.

2. The confirmation hearing for Secretary-Designee Betsy DeVos is scheduled for Jan. 11 – making it possible that we will have a new secretary of education soon, and one that fully supports school vouchers.

3. The National School Boards Association will host a "Meet and Greet" on Capitol Hill during the Advocacy Institute's "Hill Day". Members of Congress and their legislative staff will be invited to attend.

Learn more and register.

National School Choice Week

National School Choice Week is coming up Jan. 22-28. That would be an opportune time to promote the choices available within your local schools, such as magnet schools, career and technical education programs, specialized schools, and other options. Get those columns and letters in early if you’re considering trying to get something in your local media outlets. Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz wrote this column last year.

During that week, the Coalition for Public Schools will host a legislative symposium featuring a panel discussion on vouchers featuring speakers from the national and state levels. The symposium will be Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. Contact Dr. Charles Luke for more information.

Trustee Pens Letter to Straus

Marshall ISD Trustee Chase Palmer wrote this letter to Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) asking for help from the legislature. “I sincerely believe that public education in Texas currently stands at a crossroads,” Palmer writes. “I believe this legislative session to be a watershed moment for our state as relates to public education.”