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Lawmakers on the House Public Education Committee charged with gathering information ahead of the 2019 session heard testimony Aug. 8 on teacher compensation. Education Commissioner Mike Morath proposed a merit pay model that TCTA opposes because of the linkage between teacher compensation and student test scores.

Most Texas school districts earned passing grades as TEA issued its first A-F academic accountability ratings. The Texas Education Agency issued the grades Aug. 15 to all public school districts and charters, with 92 districts exempt from a grade this year due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey along the Gulf Coast.

TCTA testified at the Aug. 3, 2018, State Board for Educator Certification meeting against a proposal to expand the types of certificates that could be obtained via a shortened educator preparation program. In response, SBEC member and TCTA immediate past president Suzanne McCall made a motion to strike the objectionable language in the rule, but the motion failed by a narrow margin, 3-4. Accordingly, the proposal will proceed to the State Board of Education for approval or rejection. TCTA will continue to advocate for maintaining high and consistent standards for entry into the teaching profession throughout the remainder of the process.

Candidates are limited to five attempts to pass a certification exam under Texas Education Code §21.048. A subsection of the law that currently counts all attempts of the same exam taken before Sept. 1, 2015, as only one attempt is set to expire. Beginning Sept. 1, 2018, all attempts of the same exam, no matter when they occurred, will count toward the five-attempt testing limit regardless of when the exam was first attempted.  

The TRS Board of Trustees voted at its July meeting on a 5-4 vote to lower the return rate assumption for the pension fund from the current 8 percent to 7.25 percent. The employee representatives on the board, including former TCTA presidents Dolores Ramirez and Nanette Sissney, as well as Greg Gibson and Dick Nance, voted against the 7.25 percent rate. This group of trustees supported a 7.5 percent rate at the April meeting, and proposed a 7.35 percent rate at the July meeting. 

Performance of English learners is included in the state accountability system in two ways: as one of the student groups whose performance on STAAR influences accountability results for schools/districts, and via an English proficiency indicator in Domain 3/Closing the Gaps which mirrors federal ESSA requirements. (Click here for more details on ESSA requirements.)

The U.S. Department of Education has approved TEA's list of teacher shortage areas for the 2018-19 school year.

TCTA was successful in persuading TEA to make clear in its final program rules for bilingual/ESL education that only teachers who are appropriately certified can be assigned to teach in these programs, unless a district receives a temporary waiver from TEA. An inappropriately certified teacher must be placed on a permit to work toward appropriate certification. 

Next week, at its July 26-27 meeting, the TRS Board is scheduled to take action on a key financial issue that will affect the TRS pension fund and the future of retiree benefits – a recommendation to lower the fund’s assumed rate of investment returns from 8 percent to 7.25 percent. TCTA opposes this major shift. We have advocated a more moderate change as well as a phase-in of any significant reduction. We encourage educators to contact the TRS Board to express your concerns.

Texas lawmakers continue to hold meetings to discuss school safety and security following the deadly shooting in May at Santa Fe High School. Officials focused on mental health services for students during meetings July 16 and July 18.