Well, the Texas Legislature is definitely upon us and we have been very busy the past few months. As grantmakers committed to protecting and improving public education in the state of Texas, we welcome you to learn more about TEGAC and become involved.
This issue is full of great information and includes up-to-date summaries of major education legislation being explored during the 83rd Texas Legislative Session. It also highlights our second biennial Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Day at the Capitol, hosted by TEGAC on February 27th in Austin.
We also are thrilled to report that the TEGAC-commissioned Children At Risk research findings on the impact of the budget cuts on public education have been released. You can now search data on the impact of the cuts to public education by district, no matter what part of the state you live in.
In other news, TEGAC's website is now live and you can access foundation advocacy resources and Texas education policy data with the click of a button, so check it out!
And last but not least, we are proud to welcome three new members to the Consortium: the Ewing Halsell Foundation (San Antonio), the George W Brackenridge Foundation (San Antonio), and the Tapestry Foundation (Austin)! Please take a moment to read through this newsletter and contact us with any questions or comments, or if you would like to learn more about becoming a member of TEGAC.
School Testing Gets an Overhaul:
Reform of standardized testing took center-stage last week in the Texas House of Representatives with a daylong debate around House Bill 5 by House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). Chair Aycock's bill received almost universal support - despite the fact that many incumbent members of the Texas Legislature voted for some of the measures being repealed as recently as 2011. While only two members ultimately voted against the bill, its floor debate proved to be the most interesting conversation on the House floor thus far in the 2013 Texas Legislature. Representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) unsuccessfully offered numerous amendments to ensure that - in his words - "rigor was not removed from the high school curriculum." You can read more on the bill itself here: http://www.statesman.com/ap/ap/education/house-oks-testing-graduation-standards-overhaul/nW5Cc/.
The Texas State Budget Debate Continues:
My what a difference two years makes! If you lived in Texas in 2011 or since, you've probably heard about the dramatic cuts to Texas public schools. The impact project conducted by Children at Risk and funded by many Consortium members highlighted the effects of these cuts at the local level. The report is available at http://childrenatrisk.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Doing-More-With-Less-Public-Education-in-a-New-Fiscal-Reality-Statewide-Assessment.pdf.
It would appear that all the work, research, and discussion with legislators has had a big effect. While it's impossible to say what will ultimately come about in the state's budget after two more months of amendments and debate, it is becoming clear that some (but by NO means all) of last session's cuts will be restored this year. This is a hugely positive development that must be celebrated by philanthropists left holding the fiscal bag when the state chooses to cut schools. The House begins its budget debates this week and its starting point includes $1.5 billion in additional restorations over the Senate's approved budget. Look for the final version to fall somewhere in between the two chambers' competing proposals.
More info on the budget and budget brinksmanship here: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/headlines/20130321-house-budget-writers-move-to-make-up-more-of-cuts-to-texas-education-spending.ece.
School Choice and Charters:
Before the 2013 Texas Legislature convened in January, all education policy talk seemed to center around expanding options for school "choice" and to creating more charter schools. Surprising to many Capitol watchers, neither strategy has caught political fire like many supporters had hoped. In the eyes of many, a massive expansion of vouchers is all but dead under the dome. The membership of the House Public Education Committee is notably cool to the idea of public school privatization. Speculation has turned to what - if any - voucher proposal may be politically viable. For example, a limited proposal to provide vouchers to families of children with disabilities may gain traction in the session's remaining few weeks.
Also of interest is the lack of legislative interest in completely removing the cap (or limit) on the number of charter schools. Instead of a complete elimination of the cap, debates have instead centered around how to gradually increase the number of new charter schools under the current capacity of the state to regulate their quality. Keep an eye out for important conversation about closing poor-performing charter schools, an issue near and dear to the hearts of many foundations who have invested heavily in the charter movement.
Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Day at the Capitol
On February 27, 2013 over 35 grantmakers from all over the state descended upon Austin for an exciting day of learning and networking during the 2013 Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol, hosted by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC).
TEGAC was created after a large group of education grantmakers came together in Austin to meet with Texas Legislators and policymakers during the 2011 Legislative Session. Building upon this interest, TEGAC was developed to continue this engagement and to better understand the world of education policy and advocacy.
During the convening, grantmakers heard directly from top officials charged with writing education budgets and policy, including State Representative Mark Strama, State Representative Mike Villarreal, Chief of Staff from State Senator Royce West's office, and Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams. The group also heard from Senator Dan Patrick, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Belinda Pustka, Education Policy Advisor to the House Chair of Public Education Committee, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock.
Participants learned about philanthropy-led education advocacy initiatives, such as Raise Your Hand Texas and Texans Deserve Great Schools, as well as from the Houston-based nonprofit, Children At Risk, which TEGAC commissioned to do groundbreaking research on the impact of the budget cuts on public education. Children At Risk presented a summary of the research findings, and participants were also able to hear directly from public school superintendents and charter school leaders from across the state on how the budget cuts have affected their districts. At the end of the day, grantmakers met individually or in teams with their legislators to talk about the importance of investing in public education and specifically in evidence-based programs that work to educate all Texas children.
Click on the TEGAC website to see more pictures and download Advocacy Day resources: www.tegac.org.
Also, you can read more about TEGAC's message to legislators in an op-ed published in the Austin American Statesman and authored by members of TEGAC: http://www.tegac.org/uploads/TEGAC__American_Statesman_.pdf
Second Phase of Data Project Findings to be Released
|Doing More With Less: Public Education in a New Fiscal Reality - Phase II Research Findings Are Out!|
Phase II of the research project done by Children At Risk and commissioned by TEGAC has released its findings. They are now housed on the Texas Tribune website and accessing the data on the impact of the cuts by school district is simple.
You can access the full report here: http://childrenatrisk.org/research/education/more-with-less/
You can access data by district on the Tribune website here:
About Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium
In 2011 the Texas Legislature approved historic cuts to funding for public education. Foundations across Texas have seen successful public/private partnerships threatened or eliminated by budget cuts. Also, demand for scarce foundation dollars is increasing as community groups see their revenues eliminated from school district budgets.
In response, a geographically and politically diverse consortium group of foundations is joining together to promote, protect and improve public education. The Consortium is designed to be a forum and serve as a focal point for organizing philanthropic efforts. In some cases the Consortium seeks to pool funds from multiple foundations to increase the impact of its advocacy efforts. The Consortium is partnering with policymakers, the media, the business community, academics, advocates, parents and others to ensure the broadest dissemination of its work.
Foundations with all levels of interest and experience in advocacy grantmaking are welcome to participate. Because every foundation is different and the needs of the Consortium are so diverse, there is a place for every foundation in the Consortium.
How do foundations join the Consortium?
Foundations are encouraged to become members of the Consortium. When appropriate, members may decide to make a financial contribution to the Consortium. Contributions will cover the costs of research on the impacts of budget cuts, support for multi-foundation events like the 2013 Education Funders Day at the Texas Capitol, and basic administrative overhead such as printing and travel costs. The suggested contribution is $5,000 annually; however, Consortium members are encouraged to contribute at an amount commensurate with their endowment size. The Consortium has created a fund at the Austin Community Foundation to accept contributions. Contributions can be forwarded to the Austin Community Foundation at:
Austin Community Foundation
C/O: Paula Lange, Finance Manager
4315 Guadalupe, Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78751
Tel: 512 472 4483
What are the benefits of membership?
Foundations that join the Consortium will receive:
- Bi-monthly legislative and policy updates
- Up-to-the-minute information on the localized budget impact data produced by CHILDREN AT RISK and available via the Texas Tribune website
- Annual summary of the impact of changes to education funding for all school districts
- Media related exposure (if desired)
- Logo placement on Consortium materials (if desired)
- On-going training on the legal parameters of foundation and nonprofit advocacy
- Participation in the Education Funders Day at the Capitol in February 2013 and 2015
Additionally, members can self-elect to be involved in developing the Consortium's strategy by participating in the Consortium's Leadership Committee.
To learn more, please contact
Jennifer Esterline, Project Consultant, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512.796.4530.