Texas Education Grantmakers 
Advocacy Consortium
Newsletter 
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Issue: #8
November/2013
 
Greetings!
  
Fall is officially upon us and the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC) is already actively gearing up for a lot of work during the interim period in 2014. Our work groups are now under way exploring issues that will be of utmost importance in the next legislative session.  We also continue to educate groups around the state on the impact of budget cuts and the importance of public education advocacy among foundations, and in turn, continue to expand our membership. 

Speaking of expanding our membership, the Consortium is delighted to welcome the Bernard & Audre Rapoport Foundation from Waco and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas as the newest TEGAC members. The addition of these two organizations now brings our membership to 23 education grantmakers from across Texas! 

    

In addition to an update on the policy work groups, in this issue you will find a new section which features a Q&A with one of TEGAC's founding members, the Kathryn & Beau Ross Charitable Fund. In each newsletter going forward, we hope to highlight a different member to introduce you to our diverse group of grantmaker partners who are making things happen in public education. This month, we are proud to highlight the Kathryn and Beau Ross Charitable Fund and their work to support Austin area nonprofits focused on educating at-risk children. We are so grateful to have them as partners of the consortium and want to spread the word about their public education grantmaking in the Central Texas community.    

 

We are also excited to show you our newly redesigned website and logo, as well as our new blog. As we continue to grow and gain recognition, we want to have a more professional website and hope it will serve as a place where our members can access and share information to enhance our shared goal of improving public education in Texas through advocacy and public policy.

  Q&A: Kathryn and Beau Ross Charitable Fund
    
The Kathryn and Beau Ross Charitable Fund 
   

1.)    What is the history and mission of the Kathryn and Beau Ross Charitable Fund?

 

We started the fund in early 2009 to support greater-Austin charities focused on educating at-risk children. We make about 5 grants a year and have supported Communities in School, Life Works, Foundation Communities, Helping Hand Home, Safe Place, and Any Baby Can, among others.

 

2.)    Why did you become involved in public education?

 

It started when our two boys entered public school in the Eanes Independent School District (EISD). Kathryn "retired" from Accenture and became a volunteer at the boys' schools since kindergarten. She is now president-elect of the Eanes Education Foundation which raises about $1.3 million to fund about 25 teaching positions that would otherwise be vacant. Beau got involved in the issue of funding public education and is a Trustee and Vice-President of the EISD board. Outside of EISD, our involvement in local charities has educated us on the significant unfunded challenges facing at-risk children. So, while we support EISD for our children, we focus our charitable resources on the school campuses with a high population of at-risk children.  

 

3.)    What issues do you feel are important in regards to public education in Texas?

 

Funding! And, an honest, informed discussion of the issue. The right amount for each school is debatable and is the main question of lawsuits working their way through Texas courts - and eventually back to the Legislature. Balancing the sources and appropriations of funds is a very complex challenge. There are competing demands for funding, and we need to live within a budget. Funding of public education is most important as it eventually impacts the economic strength of the entire state of Texas.

 

4.)    Why did you feel joining TEGAC was important to you mission?

 

A sizeable and credible group of Texas foundations can have a stronger influence working together versus independently. I like the non-partisan focus on bringing a well-rounded and fact-based approach to the discussion of keys issues.

 

5.)    Why do you feel advocacy is important to nonprofit foundations?

 

I recognize that advocating at the State Capitol is not for all foundations, and may be a small part of what some foundations do. But, advocating for at-risk children and funding of public education at the Capitol (in a way that fits each foundation) helps to complement the financial support given to charities to achieve greater impact.

 

6.)    What is your goal for the foundation in regards to its work with public education and advocacy?

 

I hope TEGAC is the catalyst for: a) bringing foundations together to discuss advocacy, b) enabling foundations to become comfortable with advocating at the Capitol, c) building consensus around a focused agenda, and d) harnessing the power of each foundation's work efforts to advocate for that agenda.
 
TEGAC Revamped Website and New Blog
We are excited to announce that the Consortium launched its newly redesigned website this month. The updated site has our new logo, a more user-friendly homepage with our calendar of upcoming events and a new "join" tab to make it easy for new partners to sign up for the Consortium. The site also
includes enhanced advocacy resources for foundations interested in learning more about how they can be involved in public education advocacy.
  
We are particularly excited about the new section for a TEGAC blog. We are asking our members to contribute to the blog to keep our membership informed about our partners' activities and events. We hope this blog will serve as a place that grantmakers can share information on events, research, advocacy activities and more. We also envision the blog serving as an up-to-the-moment resource during the legislative session.
 

Visit our updated site at www.tegac.org!  We hope to have the blog up and running by next month and look forward to having each of you contribute so that we can keep one another and our community informed about our advocacy efforts to improve public education in Texas.
  TEGAC Activities and
Policy Work Groups Update
 
TEGAC has been busy over the past couple of months, and we have a lot of updates to share. The Consortium was honored to present at the Grantmakers for Education annual conference in Houston in October, as well as the Texas Lyceum annual conference in Dallas and the annual Independent Sector conference in New York City. We also plan to wrap up the statewide "Follow Up Friday"series in El Paso at the end of November.
  
The Consortium also submitted its first ever TEGAC interim charges in October. These interim charges are in direct alignment with the interest areas identified by conversations with over 80 foundations across the state during the statewide "Follow Up Friday" series and with policymakers inside and outside of the Capitol who have in-depth knowledge of the highest priority public education issues leading up to the next legislative session in 2015. They also are the very same issues that the Consortium will be focused on through its policy work groups during the interim period and leading up to the 2015 legislative session.
  
We are making good progress on the development of the policy work groups. As you know, these work groups are being created to give foundations who want to wade a little deeper into the education advocacy and policy waters the opportunity to understand how the policy process works, especially during the interim period.
  
Here is a brief update on the three highest priority policy work groups:
  
Pre-K: The Pre-K work group is the furthest along in its development and is now up to seven foundation partners: Meadows Foundation is serving as a seed funder, and the Dallas Foundation, Still Water Foundation, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and Powell Foundation are serving as partner funders. The group's focus will be to educate the public, media, and legislature about best practices for maximizing existing public and private resources and expanding local and federal support for pre-kindergarten in the state of Texas.
  
The Consortium has commissioned Children At Risk to develop and implement a research report on the most effective school district strategies for delivering pre-kindergarten services amid budget cuts with policy recommendations for legislative action concerning:

- Full-day pre-kindergarten

- Pre-kindergarten class sizes and ratios

- Creative methods of finance utilizing existing funding streams

- Opportunities for expansion with supplemental local and/or federal funds

 

After the research is complete, the work group will disseminate a request for proposal for small advocacy grants to advocacy partners to take the data generated by Children at Risk directly to policymakers and other education stakeholders prior to and during the 2015 legislative session.
  
HB 5: The HB 5 work group is gaining momentum as well. We have two foundations signed on as partner funders for HB 5 implementation, but we are still looking for at least one seed funder. We are hopeful that we will have one committed by the end of the year. While we are still developing exactly what this work group will focus on, the current focus is to determine best practices for educating students, parents, and families about changes to the Texas high school curriculum made by the passage of House Bill 5, as well as creating alignment around the new graduation requirements with the workforce through the Texas Workforce Commission. The work group will produce a report detailing best practices from across Texas for educating students and parents about House Bill 5 and offering recommendations for school districts and the Texas Legislature to increase parent engagement.
  
Expanded Learning Opportunities:  This work group will provide policy recommendations to the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Council that was created during the 2013 legislative session. The Council is also the first advisory board with a specific statutory requirement to include a representative from philanthropy. The work group will produce a report offering a demographic profile of Texas students, analysis of currently available expanded learning opportunities, and policy recommendations for consideration by the Council and the Texas Legislature. We have a tentative seed funder and partner funder for the ELO work group.
  
In sum, we are on a strong trajectory to have all three of the policy work groups up and running by the end of 2013. In addition to managing the policy work groups in 2014, we will be planning a series of meetings during the interim period to facilitate conversations between legislators and other policymakers and education grantmakers to discuss the interim charges, as well as other topics of interest to Texas foundations. These meetings will provide an opportunity for legislators, policymakers and philanthropic leaders to build relationships and share information to better inform the policy debates leading up to the 2015 legislative session. Foundations will not have to be part of a policy work group to participate in these meetings.
Events
   

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
Q&A: The Kathryn and Beau Ross Charitable Fund
TEGAC Revamped Website and New Blog
TEGAC Activities and Policy Work Group Updates
Quick Links

TEGAC's website:

  

Bolder Advocacy Capacity Tool

 

A new report by Boulder Advocacy offers a snapshot of what nonprofit staff and directors say they need to become better advocates and provides a free self-assessment tool to help organizations determine whether they have what they need to accomplish their policy goals.

 

Helpful Tools in Understanding Recent Policy Changes
    
     
 
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.
 
  abc apple  
 
With over 100 bills passed related to public education, here's a briefing book that details the impact of new education laws.

 

Calendar of Events

 

Dallas Pre-K Policy Work Group meeting -
Nov. 14, 2013
 
El Paso Follow Up Thursday event - Nov. 21, 2013