During a Nov. 13, 2014, Sunset Advisory Commission hearing, TCTA once again opposed the proposed elimination of the State Board for Educator Certification and testified in support of more transparency surrounding TEA’s major contracts.

The public hearing was held by the Sunset Advisory Commission, a panel of legislators and members of the public charged with recommending to the full Legislature improvements to state agencies (as well as if they should be continued). Agencies normally undergo review every 12 years. The November hearing’s purpose was to gather feedback on preliminary recommendations for changes to TEA and SBEC that the Sunset staff issued in October 2014.

Although TEA’s regular 12-year review was conducted in 2013 and the Sunset Commission made recommendations about TEA to the Legislature then, the 2013 TEA Sunset bill did not pass. Rather, the Legislature passed another bill that continued TEA for two years and directed the Commission to conduct a limited scope review of TEA, focused on evaluating the ongoing appropriateness of the original recommendations adopted by the Sunset Commission in January 2013, in preparation for the 2015 legislative session.

The 2013 Legislature also directed the Sunset Commission to evaluate TEA’s contracting procedures with providers that develop or administer student assessment instruments and present recommendations to the 2015 Legislature. The Commission did so, and it included proposals on contract transparency in the recommendations discussed at the November 2014 hearing.

More transparent TEA contracts

At the hearing, TCTA testified in support of the Sunset staff recommendation that TEA provide comprehensive information about its student assessment contract online for public viewing. TCTA also urged that this recommendation be extended to all of TEA’s major contracts, given the large sums of money involved and the high-interest subject matter associated with these contracts.

In addition, TCTA testified that the Sunset Commission should recommend to the Legislature that the commissioner of education be prohibited from entering into agreements or arrangements with other governmental entities that include provisions that are not allowable under current law.

Examples of such agreements/arrangements include the provision in the commissioner’s Preschool Development Grant application to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) that would allow vouchers for prekindergarten students, and the commissioner’s NCLB waiver agreement with USDE, which requires local districts to use state standardized test results for teacher evaluations in their locally adopted evaluation systems. Both agreements were entered into without the benefit of legislative or broad public/stakeholder input.

Opposition to SBEC abolishment

TCTA testified against the Sunset staff’s recommendation to abolish SBEC, which oversees all aspects of the preparation, certification and standards of conduct of public school educators. (The Legislature created SBEC in 1995 to recognize public school educators as professionals and to grant educators the authority to govern the standards of their profession.)

The Sunset staff’s recommendation would abolish the board, which has 11 voting members (four teachers, a counselor, two administrators and four non-educator members) and transfer its duties to the commissioner of education, who heads TEA.

“We urge the continuation of the State Board for Educator Certification to give the education profession an instrumental role in the regulation of their profession, as other professions enjoy,” said Holly Eaton, TCTA director of professional development and advocacy.

Support for TEA monitoring efforts

TCTA also testified in support of strengthening TEA’s ability to monitor school districts’ compliance with key state and federal education laws and the agency’s ability to enforce those laws. TCTA noted that increased staffing and funding would be needed so that TEA could sufficiently perform its basic duties in this area.

“TEA has very little funding or staff for monitoring or enforcement, which are among the chief responsibilities of the agency,” Eaton said. “TEA funding for this purpose should be increased, and in addition to performance-based monitoring, there should be random on-site visits to schools.”

TCTA also testified in support of connecting the TEA complaint process with the monitoring system so that relevant complaints would be considered in the monitoring process.

Other TCTA responses to Sunset recommendations

While Eaton expressed TCTA’s support for many of Sunset’s recommendations for changes to TEA, she also testified against recommendations that would:

  • Limit TEA’s involvement in appointing hearing examiners for teacher contract cases;
  • Require additional educator reporting requirements that are likely to cause duplication and confusion; and
  • Eliminate the requirement for TEA to assess the effectiveness of district and campus site-based decision-making via an annual statewide survey, as it is a primary mechanism for those who are actually implementing policy at the campus level to have a say in determining that policy.

Read TCTA’s full testimony on the Sunset recommendations for TEA.

The Sunset Advisory Commission is tentatively scheduled to meet Dec. 10, 2014, to adopt final recommendations for TEA.