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Our thoughts and prayers are with all TCTA members, their families, colleagues, students and neighbors affected by Hurricane Harvey. Donations and volunteers will be needed in the months ahead as Southeast Texas recovers and starts to rebuild. We've put together a list of resources for those directly impacted by the storm along with ways to help.

In anticipation of slightly exceeding the federal 1 percent state-level cap on the percentage of students taking an alternative assessment, the Texas Education Agency posted for public comment a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year. TCTA submitted comments supporting the waiver request.

As Hurricane Harvey's impact continues to be felt across Southeast Texas, lawmakers gathered in Austin on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, to get an update on the recovery effort. The House Public Education Committee, led by Chair Dan Huberty, invited educators in the affected region to talk about the storm's impact, specifically whether the state needs to adjust accountability measures this year.

In a surprise ceremony Oct. 18, Katie Negen, a TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement master teacher at Slaton Junior High School in Slaton ISD, was presented with a 2017 Milken Educator Award.

The national award — which is often referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching” — recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

Between an Oct. 2 Houston hearing of the House Appropriations Committee and an Oct. 12 Austin hearing of the House Public Education Committee, lawmakers have heard plenty from school officials and others along the Texas coast about the costs resulting from Hurricane Harvey.

TCTA urged the State Board for Educator Certification in testimony to increase the number of training hours required for candidates from trade and industry professions seeking a new Trade and Industrial Workforce Training certificate. When the item was presented for discussion at the board’s Dec. 8 meeting, TCTA pointed out that the proposal for a floor of 200 hours total of training for the new certificate fell far short of what an educator preparation program could reasonably be able to accomplish and failed to sufficiently cover important topics that go to the heart of teaching such as the relevant TEKS, classroom management skills, instruction of students with dyslexia, and knowledge of students and student learning. At TCTA’s suggestion, the board directed TEA staff to seek stakeholder input from educator preparation programs with experience in this area to determine how many more hours would be reasonably be needed to sufficiently cover the curriculum. The revised proposal is next expected to be presented to SBEC at its March 2018 meeting.

On Oct. 3, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) made a statement on the Senate floor in support of eliminating the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) as part of the tax legislation being drafted in the House Ways and Means Committee. Texas Rep. Mike Conaway spoke against the WEP a week later on the House floor.

The TRS Board of Trustees approved new and revised rules at its Sept. 22, 2017, meeting that may affect active members and future retirees. Some of the issues in these rules are complex and we strongly recommend that members contact TRS to discuss how their personal situations may be affected by the changes.

Texas submitted its final ESSA State Plan to the U.S. Department of Education for review and approval on Sept. 25, 2017, after posting a draft plan for public comment in late July. Although TCTA submitted comments urging the Texas Education Agency to do more to address inequitable gaps in the assignment of qualified teachers to poor and minority students, and to include more holistic measures of school success in the plan, the final plan changed very little in these areas. 

Revisions to the Texas Education Agency's teacher appraisal rules, which were prompted by lawsuits filed by TCTA and three other groups, become effective Oct. 10, 2017.