Texas Education Grantmakers 
Advocacy Consortium
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Issue: #7August/2013

  

A new school year has begun, and for millions of Texas students, this year will be a very different one as a result of the new requirements under House Bill 5, Senate Bill 2 and other transformative education policy changes that took place during the 83rd legislative session. Many questions are yet to be answered about how these new laws will be implemented and what impact they will ultimately have on Texas students.

 
And while the (regular) session is over, the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium's (TEGAC) work is just getting started! During the critical interim period between legislative sessions, we will be closely monitoring and evaluating these new laws and will continue to have a voice at the table to ensure all five million Texas students' needs are being met. 
 
Looking ahead to 2015, in collaboration with our member foundations and other philanthropists and community partners, we have identified several areas of interest and are currently busy in the process of forming policy work groups around key education policy issues. These work groups will spend the next 18 months exploring specific policy priorities and providing objective data to inform recommendations on best practices and policies moving into the next legislative session to protect and improve public education in our state. We respect and appreciate all of the various experiences our members bring to the table and hope you will consider joining a work group to ensure we continue to provide innovative and thoughtful policy ideas to improve public education.
  
We are also happy to report that our "Follow-up Friday series" is wrapping up in the Gulf Coast and Waco in early September. Through this series, the Consortium hosted meetings in almost every corner of the state to ensure participants were well-informed about the recent legislative changes to public education and the impact they have on private grantmaking in Texas. 
  
Lastly, we would like to welcome two new education grantmakers to TEGAC: the Andy Roddick Foundation in Austin and the Sid Richardson Foundation in Fort Worth! There is still much work to do and it is only through your generous contributions that we can do this work together. 
  
Interim Policy Work Groups and 2015 Priorities
It has been a big year for TEGAC. In just the last eight months, we have grown our membership to 20 foundation members from every corner of the state; we have supported the release of critical research; convened the largest ever gathering of Texas philanthropists at the State Capitol; and traveled thousands of miles across Texas to talk to more than 80 private, corporate and community foundations and public education policy experts about what the 2013 Texas Legislature did and did not do for public schools.

 

A big state deserves a big effort, and the Consortium is already having an impact. For example, without Consortium-supported research, no objective information would have been available to the public, the media, and policymakers about the impact of cuts to public schools. This information was critical in informing the policy discussion around partial restoration of the cuts to public education during the 2013 legislative session. The Consortium is truly historic not just because of its size but also because of its focus on one thing: protecting and improving public schools.

 

The Consortium has listened to its members and foundations across Texas. Through surveys and meetings with hundreds of philanthropists, TEGAC has gained a deep understanding of the breadth of public education issues that Texas foundations are working to address. We also understand the limits of foundations working to create policy change and that every foundation approaches advocacy from its own unique place.

 

Now is the moment to move from research and convening to collective impact and action. By joining together and focusing on a set of shared priorities, we can address the seemingly insurmountable challenges to improving public education.

 

Based upon our discussions with foundations and the education community, the Consortium proposes concentration on the following areas in advance of the 2015 Texas Legislative session:

  1. Implementation of 2013 Education Legislation
    1. HB 5 - Community outreach regarding changes to high school curriculum
    2. SB 2 - Charter school accountability and high quality charter expansion
    3. HB 1926 - Blended learning
    4. SB 503 - Expanded Learning Council
  2. Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education
  3. Teacher and Principal Quality
You now have the opportunity to decide how involved you want to be in the work of the Consortium. We are asking those interested in participating in trainings, conference calls and other education and networking opportunities to become a member by making an annual contribution of at least $5,000 to support the Consortium's infrastructure.

 

Those interested in going a step further can agree to invest in one or more of these three work groups listed above as either a Seed Funder (an investment of at least $50,000) or Partner Funder (an investment of $10,000). The Consortium's goal is to secure funding from foundation partners to match the contribution of the Seed Funder. All funds will be considered grants and managed by the Austin Community Foundation.

 

Each work group will focus on the specifics of their policy area. Objective research will be gathered, and agreed-upon recommendations on best practices and policies will be made. Mini-grants (not to exceed $25,000) will also be given to non-traditional allies to promote these policy recommendations to the public, media, educators, policy makers, and other philanthropists in advance of the 2015 Texas Legislature.

 

The Consortium will partner with participating foundations to redistribute 100% of these funds in a targeted advocacy effort that will include politically- balanced research, the creation of no-cost and non-controversial policy recommendations, and support of effective, balanced advocacy organizations to convey those recommendations to policy makers. Focused policy priorities will be selected by foundations that have invested in TEGAC and will be drafted in a consensus-driven manner using the most objective and Texas-focused data possible.

 

This is big. This is bold. However, collective impact is the future of philanthropy. The Consortium represents a historic effort in Texas. People across the country are paying attention to what we are doing to convene education grantmakers from every corner of Texas. We believe Texas philanthropy can address our state and communities' biggest challenges, but we cannot do it alone. Together, we are always stronger.

 

Please contact Jennifer Esterline, TEGAC Project Consultant, at jennifermesterline@gmail.com or 512.796.4530 if you are interested in learning more.

In the News: What the New Public Education Legislation Means for Texas 
Photo credit Nathan Bernier/KUT News)
What 2013 Public Education Legislation Means for Texas
Education Grantmakers
September 1 marks the day that most bills passed by the 2013 Texas Legislature become law.  September 1 is also the first day of the state's two-year budget cycle. In other words, if public schools and public education in Texas is important to you, this week is important because many sweeping changes to how we educate our kids take effect. The Consortium was created to keep Texas foundations and philanthropists informed of changes to public education policy and finance, so let's take a look at some of the biggest changes that will await our students, teachers, volunteers, and administrators this school year. From changes to how many charter schools will be allowed to operate across the state, to what classes high school students are expected to take, students returning to class in 2013 will see dramatic changes immediately.  
 
Implementation of House Bill 5: Parent Education More Important than Ever
Many bills passed in 2013 will need to be explained to parents, none more immediately than House Bill 5 by Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). While most of the attention to the bill was focused on its reduction of testing in high schools, the bill also included important changes to how Texas educates its students.  
 
House Bill 5 made substantial changes to the state's graduation requirements, moving from the current 44 graduation plans to a 22-credit Foundation High School Program that allows students to earn endorsements in specific areas of study by completing four additional credits. Concern is growing around continued access to rigorous coursework, especially for low-income students, as well as the fact that Texas does not have sufficient counselors to explain the sweeping change to hundreds of thousands of families. 
 
As we learned from the Children At Risk research commissioned by the Consortium in 2012, the number of guidance counselors across districts decreased dramatically as a result of the 2011 budget cuts. The current average ratio is now one guidance counselor for every 600 students statewide. Now more than ever, education grantmakers can expect to hear from nonprofits, school districts, advocacy and equality organizations who will undoubtedly be looking for funding to help educate the public about the changes included in the legislation.

  

HB 5 In the News:
(Beaumont Enterprise, 08/01/2013)

Uncertainty has replaced the excitement that followed a newly approved state law to reduce the number of standardized tests a high school student needs to pass in order to graduate.  House Bill 5 cut the number of end-of-course exams from 15 to 5 and gave students more flexibility in their course selection, but it is the broader range of course work that is leaving local district leaders looking for a little guidance.

  
(Texas Tribune, August 1) 
Jack Buxkemper is among a group of Texas high school students who can claim a dubious distinction. A rising junior in Ballinger Independent School District, he will have taken standardized exams in more subjects than any of his older or younger classmates by the time he graduates. He had what many parents, including his own, would call the misfortune of being in ninth grade during the spring of 2012, the year the state rolled out a rigorous, controversial - and now discontinued - end-of-course exam policy.

   

Leave HB 5 to School Districts, Aycock Tells SBOE

(Texas Tribune, July 19)

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.

  

Senate Bill 2: Accountable Charter School Growth Expected

High quality charter schools in Texas have often been negatively impacted by media accounts and disconcerting stories of poor academic performance and financial mismanagement of their lower quality counterparts. As long as many poor performers exist, the public and philanthropy are forced to question the value of all charter schools. The Texas Legislature took a big step in 2013 toward rooting out the state's lowest performing charter schools and allowing for the gradual expansion of charter school capacity in Texas. The passage of Senate Bill 2 by Chairman Dan Patrick (R-Houston) allows for expansion of high quality charter schools in Texas--like KIPP and IDEA--and creates a more efficient process for shutting down schools that are not serving taxpayers or students.  

  

SB 2 In the News:  

SBOE Will No Longer Approve Charter Applicants

(Texas Tribune, August 15)

A shift in power from the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency is among many changes brought by sweeping charter school legislation lawmakers passed in May.

 

 Other Public Education Legislation to Note:

 

CSCOPE

(Texas Tribune, July 24)

An extended drama over a controversial curriculum tool used by Texas public schools took a new turn Wednesday as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst entered the fray with a letter to the State Board of Education and a key state senator pushed to add the issue to the special session agenda.

  

Court Order Blocks District's Use of CSCOPE Lessons

(Texas Tribune, August 12)

A state district court judge has banned a small Hill Country school district from using lessons produced by a state-run coalition of education service centers known as CSCOPE until those lessons receive State Board of Education approval.

  

HB 1926

Options for Full-Time Online Education Expand in Texas

(Texas Tribune, August 26)

The number of full-time cyber schools serving Texas public school students will double in the upcoming school year despite a history of lackluster performance and a new law limiting how many online courses public school students can take at the state's expense.

 
Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education 
Across Texas and the country, pre-kindergarten and early childhood education have gained major political traction. Inspired by San Antonio's ground-breaking effort to expand access to quality pre-k, an effort is gaining steam in Houston behind anotherearly childhood ballot initiative. According to supporters, the Texas Legislature chose not to restore early childhood funding, forcing the hands of local communities to find alternative support for early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs. Houston will be viewed as a test case of the politics of early childhood if the initiative is on the November ballot and could have big implications for future efforts in other cities and at the Texas Capitol. See articles below for more information related to this issue.
  
Finally, momentum still exists at the federal level to implement President Barack Obama's plan to expand access to early childhood education. Of particular interest, Texas' own Libby Doggett was tapped by the President to lead this effort, considered one of the most important domestic policy proposals of his second term.

 

(The American Prospect, August 15, 2013)
In Texas's Harris County, a major early childhood education initiative offers a test case for the rest of the country.
 
(The Monitor, July 28, 2013)
The McAllen school district will once again offer a full-day pre-kindergarten program, a move that has far-reaching impact, a district administrator said.

 

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
  • Participation in a variety of specific policy work groups during the 2013-2014 Interim Period 

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 jennifermesterline@gmail.com or 512.796.4530
IN THIS ISSUE
Interim Policy Work Groups and 2015 Priorities
In the News: What the New Public Education Legislation Means for Texas Students
Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education
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The Texas Tribune Schools Explorer is the most comprehensive public education tool to date and the only one of its kind in the state. This database combines key academic, enrollment and financial records on all of Texas' 1,300 districts and 8,500 public schools, including hundreds of charter schools and alternative campuses. It makes school statistics easy to navigate.
 
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With over 100 bills passed related to public education, here's a briefing book that details the impact of new education laws.