Texas Education Grantmakers 
Advocacy Consortium
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Issue: #9
Spring is finally here, bringing with it renewed energy and vitality, and the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC) is definitely in the spirit of the season! Our membership is now up to 24 foundation partners representing almost every part of Texas. This month, we are highlighting one of our founding members, The Powell Foundation, who has a long history of supporting public education. We are excited to help spread the word about their transformative work and thank them for both their early and continuing support of the Consortium.
We have a lot to report in this issue because we've been very busy. In October, the Consortium submitted Interim Charges to both the House and Senate Education Committees. Many of these were included in the Lieutenant Governor's final charges to the Senate and House, reinforcing that we are aptly focused on the most critical education issues affecting our public schools. 
Our policy work groups are moving full-speed ahead spearheading innovative and critical research around important education issues. We have identified research partners for all three of our work groups and have already launched pioneering studies related to these core issues, all of which is outlined in this newsletter. Furthermore, in early February, the Consortium helped sponsor a successful pre-K event for legislative offices at the Capitol with more than 75 legislative staffers in attendance! 
We also traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with some of the country's leading voices in philanthropy and education, including the United States Department of Education, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Association of Small Foundations, and the Alliance for Justice!  We are so proud of the attention the Consortium is receiving locally and nationally. We'd like to share the words of Andy Carroll of the Association of Small Foundations regarding our work:


"Impressed is a word that utterly fails to capture my reaction to your AMAZING work. More like... "in awe."  I believe that you are creating and modeling an incredibly powerful approach to engaging private foundation benefactors and trustees, and empowering them to do what foundations are poised to do in our nation-bring their concerns to the policy table and be part of the essential process of educating lawmakers. What you are making possible and showing is that philanthropists bringing their voices to the policy table is not only possible, but unbelievably effective-and necessary."

There is no doubt our work is gaining recognition and interest in the Consortium is growing. The Alliance for Justice recently highlighted the Consortium in its blog (see "Spotlight") and the Association of Small Foundations is planning a webinar on May 7th to highlight the Consortium as a model of how foundations can safely and effectively engage in advocacy.


As we move toward the 2015 Legislative Session, TEGAC will be hosting several opportunities to get involved, including our April 2nd Spring Meeting for members in Austin. Continue to check our website for more upcoming events and blog posts. We hope you will join us at these events and support us in our mission to promote, protect and improve public education in Texas! Have a great week!

  Q&A: The Powell Foundation
The Powell Foundation (Houston, TX) 
1.)  What is the mission of the Powell Foundation?

The purpose of the Powell Foundation is to distribute funds for public charitable purposes, principally for the support, encouragement and assistance to education, health, conservation, and the arts with a direct impact within the Foundation's geographic zone of interest; i.e., Harris, Travis, & Walker Counties, Texas.


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

The Powell Family has a long, family history of support for public education. Our founder Ben H. Powell III's mother was an educator who taught mathematics at SHSU and later became the first woman to serve on the Huntsville ISD School Board in 1920. The tradition of commitment to public education has continued in the family. The current president of The Powell Foundation, Nancy Powell Moore, was very active in the VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools Program) at Houston Independent School District and her son, Harvin C. Moore IV, is currently serving his tenth year as a Houston ISD trustee. The family believes that attaining a good education is key to success and lies at the core of solving many of society's issues.


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

There are many critical issues that need to be addressed. They range from the quality of teacher training and preparation to elevating the academic achievement standards of schools. Probably one of the biggest issues facing the state is the poor rate of reading achievement which has led to a high drop-out rate in schools and a high remediation rate for those graduates who do go on to college. The Foundation has made a major commitment to early childhood education and early literacy since the mid 1990's based upon research demonstrating that it is the best way to ensure reading success. Additionally, the Foundation has always sought programs that have the potential to effect positive system change such as the premier charter school systems of KIPP and YES, Teach For America and some of the newer college access programs that have the capacity to grow to scale.


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

We came to the realization some time ago that we could not really effect much change locally within our public education system without changing things at the state level. We also realized that due to our limited asset size, we could be more effective by leveraging our resources with those of other funders who shared the same goals. We have had several positive experiences working collaboratively with other foundations over the past 20 years. Thus, joining efforts with TEGAC was a natural, logical step. We also view joining TEGAC as building upon and strengthening existing relationships with other Texas funders.


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

The philanthropic voice is one that is not often heard in the forum of public policy. Based upon the work we do, the great efforts that we see taking place in our respective communities and the due diligence that goes into our grantmaking, philanthropy is uniquely positioned to speak up. It also doesn't hurt that we tend to be more focused on outcomes, looking at things from a more objective and unbiased perspective.


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

At this point, we are still putting our big toe in the water. Having only peripheral experience in the advocacy arena for the past three years, we are still learning as we go. However, by joining a group of other funders who are also learning and sharing their experience and expertise, we think that we can benefit greatly. If we can be successful at improving outcomes through public policy for Texas students, even slightly, then we will have achieved our goal.


For more information about The Powell Foundation, please visit their website at www.powellfoundation.org.

Interim Charges

After months of conversations and the participation of hundreds of individual philanthropists and more than 80 Texas foundations, the Consortium submitted interim charges to both the Senate and House education committees of the Texas Legislature in October 2013. Interim charges represent the Lieutenant Governor's and Speaker's priorities for the work of the Texas Senate and House of Representatives in the eighteen months between legislative sessions. The Consortium requested that the state's leadership ask legislators to:

  1. Monitor implementation of House Bill 5 and opportunities to improve parent outreach and education about changes to the high school curriculum.
  2. Monitor implementation of Senate Bill 503 and examine opportunities to improve access to and the quality of expanded learning opportunities for Texas students.
  3. Examine opportunities for improving access to and quality of pre-kindergarten programs, including opportunities to maximize existing resources and leverage additional local and federal support.
  4. Examine opportunities to improve the quality of and support for public school administrators and teachers.

The January release of some of the Lieutenant Governor's education interim charges confirmed that the Consortium and its members are on the right track. The Lieutenant Governor's direction mirrored the Consortium's interest in ensuring the effective and thoughtful implementation of big legislation passed in 2013. Of particular interest is an interim charge related to implementing the massive House Bill 5 and its sweeping changes to how high schools move students toward graduation.

Policy Work Groups Update
Pre-K Policy
Work Group meeting
The Consortium's Policy Work Groups have been busy over the past couple of months, and we have a lot of updates to share!

Pre-Kindergarten Work Group Launches Research at the Texas Capitol 


In collaboration with our Pre-K research partner CHILDREN AT RISK, the Consortium hosted a policy briefing for legislative staff to outline the objective analysis and data collection currently underway regarding Pre-K. Two Consortium members, the Powell Foundation and United Ways of Texas, spoke to the almost 80 staffers in attendance. Representatives from school districts across Texas had a chance to discuss their Pre-k programs and answer questions from staffers. Many attendees expressed great appreciation for the opportunity to hear from philanthropists and school districts themselves. A huge thanks to Chairman Dan Patrick (R-Houston) for sponsoring the event and to Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) for attending in person!


At the conclusion of the event, work group members visited with key legislative offices to discuss the research project and to ask how the effort might be of most use to members of the Texas Legislature and their staff.  


Progress on House Bill 5 Policy Work Group


It's clear from both the Senate and House Education Interim Charges that implementation of HB 5 is a high priority for the Texas Legislature and will be a big topic of conversation in 2015, which is all the more reason we are so excited about the HB 5 work group. The House Bill 5 policy work is currently researching both the supply and demand sides of current high school counseling for all 1,100 Texas school districts. The Consortium has proposed a study examining these issues and making recommendations to the Texas Legislature of appropriate counselor staffing/new ways to provide counseling (through technology, etc) to meet the additional student assistance necessitated by the passage of House Bill 5. The Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin will conduct the study. The research will also include a school/parent guide that explains these realities to schools and families, but the primary audience would be the Texas Legislature.


Expanded Learning Opportunities Policy Work Group Moving Along Nicely


This work group is researching and analyzing the workforce side of Expanded Learning Opportunities and will focus on business community engagement. The Consortium is partnering with The George H.W. Bush School for Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, which will be contacting small and large businesses across Texas to determine employer attitudes about out of school time and their strategies for assisting their employees. The work group's policy recommendations will be provided to the Expanded Learning Opportunities Council (created by the Texas Legislature in 2013), the Texas Workforce Commission, and to businesses across Texas. 

TEGAC Spring Meeting
The Consortium will hold its Spring meeting for members on April 2 in Austin. The meeting includes practical information on the nuts and bolts of the Texas Legislature's recent decisions, prognostication about the impact of the 2014 elections on the 2015 Texas legislative session, advice from some of the state's most effective leaders, an update on the amazing progress of the Consortium's work groups, and - most importantly - the chance to connect and re-connect with other Texas foundations interested in public education.

Participants will hear from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, whose district includes the city of Houston, and Tom Luce - the mastermind of some of Texas' biggest education reforms. Foundation members have the opportunity to meet the researchers engaged in the Consortium's work groups, ask questions, and offer comments and suggestions about the specifics of the work groups and the Consortium's model.

Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock's and Tom Luce will be the guest speakers at the event. These meetings provide a great opportunity to hear from some of the state's premier leaders in education, as well as spend some time together talking about the Consortium's goals and activities in 2014 and 2015. Following the lunch, participants will meet with key legislators working on education issues at the Capitol.


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
Q&A: The Powell Foundation
Interim Charges
Policy Work Group Updates
TEGAC Spring Meeting
Quick Links

TEGAC's website:


Spotlight: TEGAC Recognized as

Innovative Philanthropic Model by AFJ

The Alliance for Justice in Washington DC recently highlighted the Consortium's work in Texas in a blog titled "Strength in Numbers: Texas Foundations Rally Around Education." This was a wonderful opportunity to share the Consortium's success with national audiences. As you can see, news about the Texas Education Grantmakers Consortium model has been getting a lot of interest from national groups!
February 4th Pre-K Event at the Capitol

The Consortium held another successful advocacy event at the Texas Capitol in February, this time focused on pre-K. The day included visits with legislative staff, a policy luncheon that provided legislative staff an opportunity to hear from school district representatives, the philanthropic community, and policy experts on the importance of pre-K in Texas, and to learn about the upcoming research being done by
CHILDREN AT RISK. The conversation focused on the methodology of its upcoming statewide study focused on assessing current access to public pre-kindergarten education in Texas.  Special thanks to Senator Dan Patrick for being the legislative sponsor for this event! 


Calendar of Events:


April 2 : TEGAC Spring Meeting for Members, The Austin Club, Austin, TX
May 7: ASF Webinar
Association of Small Foundations Webinar to Highlight TEGAC
On Wednesday, May 7, The Association of Small Foundations will host a conference call, "A Case Study of Successful Advocacy: Education Funding in Texas," to highlight TEGAC as a model of advocacy and engagement. The conference call is free for Exponent Philanthropy members and $40 for non-members. Details on how to register will be forthcoming, so check the TEGAC website!