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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.

On the first day of the TRS Board of Trustees’ three-day retreat in Edinburg, the board faced what some referred to as possibly the most important decision it would make this year — whether to lower the pension fund's assumed return rate for TRS investments. The result — to delay making a decision until April — was at least a temporary win for educators, with more work to be done.

The TRS Board of Trustees, at an upcoming three-day meeting, will consider a change in how the financial health of the pension fund is gauged.

TEA proposes to provide statewide professional development to all teachers on special education as part of its initial draft corrective action plan in response to orders from USDE's Office of Special Education Programs to address various special education problems in Texas public schools.

TEA will begin with training institutes that address inclusive practices and instructional techniques as well as broader identification and Child Find practices. 

Responding to federal orders and a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott, TEA released a draft special education corrective action plan on Jan. 18, 2018, along with an online survey to solicit public input on the plan through Feb. 18. Survey responses are confidential, and educators, parents and students are encouraged to participate.

After significant urging from TCTA, educators and Gov. Greg Abbott, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced in mid-December that he would seek a federal accountability waiver for hurricane-impacted schools/districts. The official waiver request was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on Jan. 30, 2018. Morath's wording does not make clear whether the request specifically seeks relief from ESSA's provisions related to accountability ratings.

Due to the changes made recently in school retiree health insurance, many retirees opted to drop their TRS-Care coverage. Re-enrollment after dropping TRS-Care is typically only allowed in special circumstances (e.g., the death of a spouse). However, TRS has received a number of requests from retirees wishing to re-enroll and has opened up enrollment through Feb. 28, 2018, for retirees who terminated their coverage between June 1, 2017, and Jan. 1, 2018.

After a U.S. Department of Education review found problems with the state's proposed plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, Texas could end up with two different systems to measure accountability.

Much of the department’s critique of Texas’s plan centered on state law accountability provisions that could potentially run afoul of ESSA requirements. Given that state laws can only be changed by the Legislature, which next meets in 2019, it is unclear how state and federal law conflicts can be resolved before then. This could lead to two separate accountability systems — one state, one federal — in contradiction to the state's initial goal of structuring the new state accountability system so it aligned with ESSA accountability requirements. 

The U.S. Department of Education has ordered the Texas Education Agency to fix ongoing issues related to special education. In response to USDE and a Jan. 11, 2018, order from Gov. Greg Abbott to respond within seven days, TEA on Jan. 18 released a preliminary corrective action plan to address the issues identified by USDE. TEA will seek public comment on the draft beginning Jan. 23.

The Texas Education Agency on Jan. 3 notified school administrators of a growing threat to K-12 school employees nationwide who are paid via direct deposit.

Cyber criminals are using phishing emails to attempt to gain account login information from users so they can change bank account information to reroute employees’ directly deposited paychecks.