That’s a Wrap!

June 23, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been an exciting 2+ years serving in the role as legislative chair for the Austin Council of PTA. At the council level, ACPTA represents over 18,000 Austin ISD parents who are members of their school’s PTA. The legislative chair role is about more than monitoring what’s going on at the Capitol during the legislative session. As an ACPTA executive board member, I provided updates about state legislative issues to ACPTA leadership but I also supported efforts to make parents and caregivers aware of how they can be advocates for their children at the campus, school district and state level. The response was overwhelming! Our ACPTA members were keenly interested in legislative topics as well as other ways they could get involved. Here are just a few highlights from the past two years:

  • Advocacy in Action presentation focused on parent advocacy at the campus, district and state level at ACPTA General Meeting (March 2012)
  • Advocacy Building Blocks presentation at ACPTA Back-to-School Training (August 2012)
  • Parent training on Austin ISD Board of Trustees Basics in advance of November 2012 school board election at ACPTA General Meeting (September 2012)
  • School board candidate forum held jointly with the League of Women Voters (October 2012)
  • Informational public forum on education policy issues with members of the Travis County delegation in partnership with Austin ISD (January 2013)
  • Lunch at the Capitol with members of the Travis County delegation in conjunction with Texas PTA Rally Day (February 2013)
  • Action alert e-blasts to local PTA presidents and legislative chairs during the 2013 legislative session
  • Parent-friendly House Bill 5 presentation offered to local PTAs (Spring 2014)
  • Ongoing ACPTA Legislative Updates blog

Thanks to 2012-2014 ACPTA President Monica Sanchez and the entire ACPTA executive board for their support of our advocacy programming. It was a team effort! This will be the final blog post of the 2012-2014 ACPTA Legislative Chair term. Thank you for reading!

Categories: Austin ISD

To Do List: Vote Early Through Friday!

February 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Texas Primary Election Day is Tuesday, March 4. You can vote early through Friday, February 28. Voting early is the easiest way to make sure this important task doesn’t fall off your “to do” list.

Primary elections matter because many of our statewide and local races are one-party competitions, with only token opposition in November. In 2012, only 15% of registered voters turned out for the Texas primary, which is less than half of the 2008 turnout. It’s pretty easy to see that the few people who do show up to vote in the primaries have a huge influence over the results.

Click here for a list of Travis County early voting locations. Remember, you can vote at ANY location that is convenient for you; it doesn’t have to be your home precinct. You can preview the Travis County ballot (Republican or Democratic) here. Don’t forget that photo I.D. is now required.  

We must take the time to stand up for what we value–including our public schools–at the polls. Make sure you know candidates’ positions on the issues important to you. In Central Texas, the League of Women Voters has compiled all candidate information in one publication.

Early voting is quick and easy! Find some time on your calendar NOW to make sure you cast your vote in the primary election.

Categories: How To's

Algebra II at Center of Debate About New High School Graduation Plans

November 13, 2013 Leave a comment

You might be surprised to know that Algebra II is currently a hot topic in many education circles and even the media. This one course is the main sticking point in the development of new high school graduation plans at the heart of House Bill 5, passed by the 2013 legislative session. Today’s Austin American-Statesman has an article by Kate Alexander describing the debate. Here’s an excerpt:

No other course has created as much consternation among policymakers as Algebra 2.

Those on one side see it as essential to preparing students for college or a career after high school, and they point to studies showing that students who take Algebra 2 are more likely to finish college. The other side says it keeps many students from taking courses they would find relevant to their future.

Tom Loveless, an education researcher at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said proponents of universal Algebra 2 believe the course is the key to college readiness. But, as more students have taken Algebra 2, the course has proved to be an unreliable indicator, he said.

“If taking Algebra 2 was the solution to solving our mathematics achievement problem then our problem should be solved, because only 25 percent don’t take it,” said Loveless, a former Harvard University professor.

Texas PTA is gathering signatures on a petition against adding Algebra II back as a graduation requirement for all students. The petition will be submitted to the State Board of Education in advance of their November 20 public hearing on HB 5 graduation requirements. The petition states:

HB 5 is the landmark education reform bill that creates multiple pathways to career and college for high school students. The intent of the authors of HB 5 was that advanced courses and courses approved for the five endorsement areas should be rigorous, innovative, and relevant, and that students should have real options both for the advanced courses they take and for the courses within the endorsement(s) they choose to pursue. Algebra II should not be required for every endorsement because Algebra II is not relevant to all the endorsements. Requiring Algebra II to be taken for each endorsement will reduce the number of relevant courses that can be taken within each endorsement and will limit a student’s choice to pursue a true content-specific pathway. Algebra II is an essential course for students pursuing a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math endorsement or a Distinguished Level of Achievement recognition, but it is not an essential course for Arts and Humanities, Public Services, Business and Industry, or Multidisciplinary endorsements. Course options should be diverse and unique to each endorsement. Those whose names are affixed to this petition urge the SBOE to adopt relevant, rigorous and innovative courses that give students multiple, real options for the required advanced courses and for each endorsement they will pursue.

Categories: Public Ed Legislation

Austin ISD Graduation Plan Survey Deadline is Today!

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

If you are an Austin ISD parent, you should have received a survey in the mail from the district. The goal of the survey is to get your input on

  1. which graduation plan should be considered as the starting plan for students entering 9th grade in 2014-15
  2. whether additional semesters in Health Education, Physical Education, and Speech should be added to the graduation plans

Even if you don’t have a child in that age group, your opinion matters!

The new graduation plans are part of the implementation of House Bill 5, passed during the 2013 legislative session. HB 5 also made sweeping changes to school assessment, curriculum, and accountability.

If you have the paper version of the survey, you can fill it out and turn it in at your child’s school. You can also complete the survey online:

Remember, the deadline is today, October 15!

State Board of Education Ponders HB 5 Implementation

July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Now that the Texas Legislature has passed House Bill 5, which reduces standardized testing and creates multiple pathways to high school graduation, the Texas State Board of Education will play a major role in implementing the law. The SBOE must create guidelines so school districts are prepared to use the revised graduation requirements by the 2014-15 school year. The new law will give students more flexibility in coursework by providing endorsements in the areas of STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary Studies.

The SBOE met last week in Austin. Many board members, who are elected officials, disagreed with the changes to graduation requirements made by House Bill 5. Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams said, “Our job is to make it happen, so we’re going to try to make it happen.”

On Friday, July 19, State Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, Chairman of the House Public Education Committee and author of HB 5, addressed the SBOE as described in this Texas Tribune article:

Let local school districts have as many choices as possible in implementing the state’s new sweeping high school curriculum changes, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock told the State Board of Education on Friday.

Lawmakers wanted the state board to be in charge of certain details but to ultimately leave enough flexibility for local school districts to “have it their way,” Aycock said.

There will be a lot more news to come as the work to implement HB 5 continues.

Categories: Public Ed Legislation

Texas State Board of Education Meets July 17 – 20

July 16, 2013 Leave a comment

The Texas State Board of Education convenes this week with a full agenda.

The first order of business will be a legislative update, which is not surprising considering more than 100 bills related to public education passed during the 2013 legislative session. The Board will also hear from invited guest Raymund A. Paredes, Ph.D., Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, about college and career readiness and recent legislative activities.

Here’s a brief summary from Dax Gonzalez of the Texas Association of School Boards of some other items on the SBOE’s agenda:

  • Addition of course options for students to satisfy the fourth mathematics and the fourth science credit requirements under the Recommended High School Program and the Distinguished Achievement Program.
  • Modification of Career and Technical Education TEKS to allow certain courses to satisfy the fourth science and math graduation requirement.
  • Revision of Technology Applications TEKS so that Robotics Programming and Design (One-Half to One Credit) could satisfy the fourth mathematics graduation requirement.
  • Review the per capita apportionment rate for each school year based on an estimate of the amount available for expenditures from the Available School Fund. The board set the rate at $373.878 at its July 2012 meeting, adopted a revised rate of $406.100 at its November 2012 meeting, and adopted a further revised rate of $448.148 at its February 2013 meeting. Because of the repealing of the final school payment deferral, the amount available for distribution from the fund for 2012-13 will increase allowing for another increase in the per capita rate.

You can take a look at  the full meeting agenda here or watch the meeting at this link.

Categories: Events

School Finance to Get a New Look in Court

June 29, 2013 Leave a comment

State District Judge John Dietz held a hearing last week to evaluate whether bills passed during the 2013 legislative session could impact the pending school finance lawsuit. Judge Dietz determined that the case should be re-opened before he issues his final ruling. The new trial date is January 6, 2014, and it’s expected to last about six weeks.

Here’s more on this development from the Texas Tribune and the Texas Association of School Boards.

Judge Dietz hasn’t lost his sense of humor about the complicated high-profile case, as described in the Texas Tribune:

State district court Judge John Dietz likened the state’s school finance case to the soap opera As the World Turns when he opened Wednesday’s hearing on whether to reconsider evidence in the trial that concluded in February.

He drew the comparison not because of the trial’s drama but because of its longevity.

“There were 13,858 episodes of As the World Turns, and we are getting pretty close,” Dietz said. 

Categories: School Finance