TRS Board to consider key change in fund's measure of health at February meeting

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.

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TEA proposes teacher training as part of its special education fix

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. 

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Tell TEA how to fix special education problems

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.

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TEA submits federal accountability waiver request for hurricane-impacted schools

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.

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TRS offers one-time re-enrollment period for retirees who dropped out of TRS-Care in 2017

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.

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Texas revised ESSA plan illustrates clash between state and federal law

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. 

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Feds warn TEA to fix ongoing special education issues

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.

Be on alert for scam seeking your school login information

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.

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TRS meeting includes board briefing on pension fund health

The TRS Board of Trustees received a briefing on the annual actuarial valuation of the pension fund — the analysis of the retirement fund’s health as of Aug. 31, 2017. The valuation showed mostly positive news, including a 12.9 percent return on investments for the fiscal year, which was well above the assumed 8 percent. The TRS fund now holds more than $146 billion in overall assets, up from $134 billion in 2016.

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Educator political involvement drawing attention in Texas

Efforts encouraging Texas teachers and other school employees to become more involved in the 2018 statewide and legislative elections appear to have drawn the attention of certain statewide leaders and groups.

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