Washington Watch

The Classroom Teacher, summer 2013

If you regularly read “Washington Watch,” you know that TCTA members are represented in D.C. by a lobby firm, but you may not know much more than that about the people who advocate for your professional interests at the federal level. So we would like to introduce you to your lobby team on Capitol Hill.

Who is Van Scoyoc Associates?

TCTA has contracted with our current lobby firm since 2011. Van Scoyoc (pronounced “Van Skoik”) Associates is a full-service federal government affairs firm and the foremost independent lobbying company in Washington, D.C.

The firm is “consciously bipartisan,” and even the staff — which numbers 80-plus — is a roughly even split of Republicans and Democrats. TCTA is in regular contact with a team of Van Scoyoc staff members responsible for advocating for TCTA members’ interests and keeping TCTA up to date on education issues at the federal level.

Why is it important to have a federal presence?

Many of the laws that have the most impact on the day-to-day lives of Texas classroom professionals are made at the state level. The Texas Legislature determines the state minimum salary schedule for teachers and passes legislation that affects just about every aspect of public education: student testing, class sizes and teacher evaluations to name a few.

However, decisions made at the federal level also directly affect Texas educators. For example, the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act), which is currently awaiting reauthorization, requires annual student testing in grades 3 through 8 and that all teachers of core academic subjects be “highly qualified.” It is also the source of the 1 and 2 percent cap on special education testing.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the set of laws by which all eligible students with disabilities must be educated, covers everything from individualized education plans to discipline to the qualifications of certain school personnel who work with students with disabilities.

Federal education grant programs also touch the daily lives of Texas teachers. The Teacher Incentive Fund, for example, is a grant program that funds local school district performance-based compensation systems for teachers.

Which issues does the D.C. lobby team monitor?

If it relates to education, our federal lobby team at Van Scoyoc has their eyes and ears on it. They attend meetings and hearings in D.C. and report back to us with the details and often the inside scoop.

For example, they provide us with analysis of how the president’s proposed education budget could impact funding for federal Title I and IDEA programs that fund some Texas educators’ jobs. And they monitor and keep us informed of changes to both IDEA and NCLB.

They also are our “boots on the ground” at the U.S. Capitol, where they help us lobby on a variety of issues, such as the repeal of the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. These provisions of federal law can, in many cases, reduce the amount of educators’ Social Security benefits or their spousal or survivor benefits, so we continue to work to remove them from federal law.

Where can I learn more?

Visit vsadc.com to read more about your Washington lobbyists, Van Scoyoc Associates.