Via Amanda List Last week was an incredibly hard week. We are all deeply saddened by the horrifically tragic taking of innocent lives in Uvalde. For those interested in supporting the Uvalde community, I’m including some information below alongside other updates from the week.

Supporting Robb Elementary & Uvalde

The OneStar Foundation created a page for donations to support families, teachers, & the Uvalde community. Funds will cover healthcare, travel, funeral expenses, & long-term needs to support the community’s recovery.

  • OneStar’s Donate page and select Robb School Memorial Fund in the donation options. (Note: OneStar’s site is receiving heavy traffic so if you encounter issues, you can also donate via OneStar’s PayPal Giving Fund.) 100% of donations received by OneStar will be given directly to the Robb School Memorial Fund.

Recap: Important Meetings

  • Tuesday, May 24 – Senate Education heard invited and public testimony on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the educator talent pipeline, monitoring HB3, HB 1525, and HB 4545, bond efficiency, and the homestead exemption. The committee addressed all of the items on their agenda. There was a significant emphasis on the efficacy of high-quality tutoring, but it was paired with an admission that guidance, implementation, and monitoring have been either confusing and/or inconsistent
  • Tuesday, May 24 – House Public Education was scheduled to hear invited and public testimony on a myriad of interim charges. Due to the tragic events in Uvalde, Chairman Dutton made the difficult decision to adjourn the meeting before all of the items on the agenda were addressed. The committee did hear testimony on mental health and updates on HB3 from Commissioner Morath before the meeting was adjourned. Some members did seem interested in raising the basic allotment. The unfinished agenda will be completed at a future date, likely alongside additional interim charges that have not been scheduled.
  • Wednesday, May 25 – The Texas Commission on Virtual Education canceled its scheduled meeting on the topic of special populations. This topic and the related invited testimony will be rescheduled for a future date.

Recap: Primary Runoff Elections

SBOE Districts 1, 2, and 4 had Democratic primary runoffs and District 13 had a Republican primary runoff. Here’s a recap of the results:

  • SBOE District 1 (El Paso to San Antonio-lower West Texas): Democrat Melissa Ortega defeated Laura Marquez. Ortega will face Republican Michael “Travis” Stephens, a current San Antonio area high school teacher, in the general. The district has a slight Democratic tilt.
  • SBOE District 2 (Rio Grande Valley through the Coastal Bend): Democrat Victor Perez, a former member of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD board, defeated Pete Garcia. Perez faces Republican LJ Francis, a Corpus-Christi-based Jamaican-American running against CRT issues, in the general election for this swing district
  • SBOE District 4 (Houston): Democrat Staci Childs, an attorney who created GirlTalk University, defeated Coretta Mallet-Fontenot. Childs will be unopposed in the general.
  • SBOE District 13 (Urban Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington): Republican Kathryn Monette, founder of the Grand Prairie Tea Party and anti-CRT candidate, defeated Denise Russell. Incumbent Aicha Davis (D) is favored to win the general.

Some other runoff results of note:

  • In a tight race with significant implications in South Texas, the race between Democrat U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros is still too close to call. Cuellar led Cisneros by 175 votes, or 0.4 percentage points, out of 45,209 ballots counted as of 2 p.m. on Friday. Many are calling this a fight for the future of the Democratic Party with establishment leadership backing Cuellar and the more progressive wing of the party backing Cisneros.
  • In an even tighter race, progressive Democrat Michelle Vallejo is ahead of moderate Ruben Ramirez by 27 votes for the 15th Congressional District. Republicans see this district as central to their strategy to turn South Texas red. The race is still too close to call. Counties have until Thursday to finalize their results and report them to the state.
  • On the GOP side, three of the four incumbents in the Texas House won their runoff races, with four-term Rep. Phil Stephenson being the lone defeat. Gov. Abbott endorsed the winners in all four of those races, including former Waller Co. Comm. Stan Kitzman who beat Stephenson.

For more information on the runoff elections, look at who’s on the ballot and get further info using the Texas Tribune’s Runoff Voter Guide.

TEA & State Updates

  • After the tragic event in Uvalde and subsequent differences in official reports of what took place with law enforcement, there have been strong calls from Democratic Texas Legislature members for Gov. Abbott to immediately call a special session focused on gun legislation. There have also been a few Republicans joining the Democrats in this request. Gov. Abbott, as he regularly does when pressured to call a special session, stated that “all options are on the table” when pressed for a response. It’s unclear at this point if he will issue a call.
  • The Teacher Vacancy Taskforce will meet this Thursday, June 2, at 8:30 am. They will split up into four working groups: Educator Prep, Strategic Staffing Models, Compensation Models, and Teacher Experience.
  • After significant backlash from parents and many Republicans for not taking action already, the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) cut ties last week with the National Association of School Boards (NASB). This came a few days after the release of an independent review of NASB showed that they planned to ask for the National Guard and the military to be sent to school board meetings. Nearly half of the school board associations in NASB had already left before TASB’s delayed move.
  • Last week, the Texas Supreme Court picked up the Houston ISD takeover case. However, they haven’t posted a date for oral arguments. TEA is asking the court to reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render judgment dismissing HISD’s claims. Much of the case centers around Wheatley High School, which hasn’t received an acceptable performance rating since 2010. Senate Bill 1365, which allows TEA to appoint a conservator to oversee a failing school’s management, passed the legislature with bipartisan support and took effect on September 1. The bill says that state-appointed conservators have authority over the entire district, not just a single F-rated school. The legislature hopes the new law will help overturn the injunction that currently protects Houston ISD from takeover.
  • In other court news, Texas’ court challenge to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been scheduled for oral arguments on Wednesday, July 6. The policy’s future has been uncertain since July of last year when a Texas federal judge blocked the government from approving new requests.

DOE & National Updates

  • In a report released last week, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) called on teacher prep programs to beef up their math education training. “In spite of allocating more overall time to mathematics preparation, many undergraduate programs are not making optimal use of this instructional time,” the report stated. “The overwhelming majority of graduate programs preparing elementary teachers do not dedicate sufficient time to teaching mathematics content, explaining how 85% of graduate programs earn an F [in our ratings].”
  • Two of the most prominent national teacher’s union leaders gave remarks outside Friday’s National Rifle Association (NRA) meeting in Houston. Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, both spoke on gun safety and how to keep communities and schools safe. They were joined by Ovidia Molina, the president of the Texas State Teachers Association, among others.

Articles of Interest

Important Dates

  • Thursday, June 2 – Teacher Vacancy Taskforce meeting
  • June 14-17 – SBOE meeting
  • Tuesday, June 28Senate Finance Hearing on Federal Funds
  • Wednesday, June 29 – Texas Commission on Virtual Ed meeting
  • Friday, July 22 – SBEC meeting

Check out more and Subscribe to Amanda List TX Legislative Updates here. 

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