The first official discussion this week between Texas Education Agency officials and the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) about the proposed budget for education in 2014-2015 did not include any conversation about restoring cuts from last legislative session. The first draft of the education budget contains no significant increase in funding other than funding for enrollment growth over the last budget that cut more than $4 Billion. Of particular note, it does not restore funding for pre-kindergarten.
TEA’s wish list, known as the Exceptional Items List, prioritizes student performance in Texas, and the goal to improve Texas’ rank to one of the top ten states in terms of college readiness. All exceptional items requested by the agency seek to contribute to the accomplishment of that goal. Included in last week’s report, the exceptional items requested by the Texas Education Agency are as follows:
• $220 million for instructional materials;
• $22.1 million to fully fund the implementation of the state’s accountability system;
• $5.2 million for the Texas Student Data System;
• $2.1 million to support the Educator Certification Online System; and
• $1 million to enhance test security and investigation capabilities.
TEA staff revealed at the LBB hearing that they do expect to amend their request because, while newly appointed Commissioner Williams was quite active in determining the agency’s request, there is a steep learning curve and the commissioner reserves the right to adjust the request.
Newly appointed TEA Commissioner Michael Williams spoke at Texas PTA’s rally this week to recognize Texas’ exemplary educators. The Texas Best Educators Marathon has a goal to recognize 100,000 outstanding educators in 180 days. Visit the website and recognize an educator who made a difference in your life or the life of a child: http://texasbesteducator.org/.
Another senior level hire was announced this week at TEA. Michael Berry, until recently an Education Policy advisor to Governor Perry, has accepted a position at TEA as deputy commissioner for policy and programs, overseeing the divisions of testing and accountability; curriculum; instructional materials and technology; state and federal policy; and educator certification. This marks a return engagement at TEA for Berry. He worked for the agency in 2007 and 2008 as a manager in the Dropout Prevention and College and Career Readiness Division. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree in educational administration from California State University.
The Senate Education Committee met this week to discuss the impact of extended learning time on school success; building community partnerships that allow a variety of academic and career-related learning opportunities; and to examine the effect of after-school programs on academic performance, school attendance, behavior, and promotion to the next grade level, and the relationship between the availability of after-school programs in an area and the high school dropout rate.
In less than 20 years, the number of property-wealthy school districts has increased more than 10-fold and now represents more than a third of the state’s 1,000-plus total school districts. Property-wealthy districts give back to the state more than a combined $1 billion annually that is redistributed to property-poor districts.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Higher Education unveils a new website, SeeThruEdu.com, which focuses on higher education reform. The site offers daily postings by leading higher education experts from across the country – www.seethruedu.com.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
The Joint Select Committee on Public School Accountability will meet at 9:00 AM on Monday, September 24th. The Committee will hear invited testimony followed by public testimony on issues related to the public school finance system.
The Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, October 8, to hear testimony on its third interim charge, to study the growing demand for virtual schools in Texas. Review the benefits of virtual schools, related successes in other states, and needed changes to remove barriers to virtual schools.
The Texas Tribune will host a discussion with four of the leading superintendents in Texas on September 21st in Austin. The discussion will focus on the most pressing issues facing Texas school districts, including funding, assessment and accountability, and the upcoming legislative session. The event takes place at the UT’s Bass Lecture Hall from 3:00 to 5:00 PM.
Scott Elliff – Superintendent, Corpus Christi Independent School District
Terry B. Grier – Superintendent, Houston, Independent School District
Karen Rue – Superintendent, Northwest Independent School District
Steve Flores – Superintendent, Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District
Early voting begins October 22nd and ends November 2nd.
Election day is November 6th.