Happy Spring! It's hard to believe but we are only two months away from the end of the 84th Legislative Session. The past few months, while very busy, have been instrumental in advancing the work of the Consortium during the Interim. Now is the time we get to see the true impact of our research and dissemination efforts. The Consortium's research partners completed their reports at the end of the year, and together with our advocacy partners, we have been busy taking what we learned from the research to policymakers to help inform policy making at the state level.
All three of TEGAC's three policy priority areas -- expansion of quality Pre-K; counselor capacity and the implementation of House Bill 5; and expanded learning opportunities -- are among the top education issues this session. Specifically, there has been widespread and bipartisan energy building behind Pre-K. Both parties and the Governor have filed bills that would expand public pre-kindergarten and support pre-k as the educational foundation for opportunity.The work of the policy work groups on these issues has already proven to be critical in providing objective data for use by policymakers as they form recommendations on crucial education issues.
In January, the Consortium released its 2014 annual report detailing our accomplishments over the past year. We hope you find this report a useful resource in understanding the innovative work the Consortium is doing.
In late February, after months of planning, we successfully gathered hundreds of philanthropists from around the state at our 3rd Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Convening in Austin. This year's event was big, drawing more than 48 foundations and 120 foundation members from around the state, despite the inclement weather! We are so thankful to each of you who attended the event.
After the legislative session ends in late May, the Consortium will again begin traveling across the state to educate grantmakers on critical public education policy issues and to discuss the local impact of current statewide public education legislation on communities across the state. These meetings will provide foundation leaders an opportunity to explore the local impact of public education legislation once the 2015 Texas Legislative Session is over.
Lastly, we are thrilled to welcome four new members to the Consortium in 2015- The Harold Simmons Foundation, Entrepreneurs Foundation of Texas, Buena Vista Foundation and Raise Your Hand Texas, bringing our total membership to 29!. We are honored to have you join this effort to promote and protect public education in our great state!
|84th Legislative Update - Inside the Capitol|
The Texas Legislature is in full stride with committee hearings starting early in the morning and floor debate going late into the night. The Texas Senate moved early to pass legislation related to guns with the House of Representatives taking early action on border security. All eyes are on the Governor's mansion as new Governor Greg Abbott has installed his team and has set to work making his campaign promises a reality. Perhaps more than any other elected official in recent memory, Governor Abbott is turning a detailed campaign platform into a methodically executed legislative strategy. The new Governor's education priorities include pre-kindgarten, reading and math academies for training teachers, and expanded access to community colleges.
The Texas House of Representatives has embraced the Governor's vision for public schools and has fast-tracked many of his priorities, especially pre-kindgarten. The quick passage of House Bill 4 by Representative Dan Huberty (R - Humble) from the Public Education Committee demonstrates the commitment of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Joe Straus (R - San Antonio) to pre-kindergarten. Competing pre-kindergarten legislation by Representatives Eric Johnson (D - Dallas) and Marsha Farney (R - Georgetown) is helping push the Capitol conversation about early childhood education toward increased investments in quality. The Speaker has also prioritized expanding opportunities for high school guidance counseling early in the session and it appears that House Bill 18 by Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R - Killeen) will be the vehicle for helping school districts most effectively implement changes to high school curriculum passed in 2013. Finally, the coming weeks will include conversation about public school finance with Chairman Aycock releasing his proposed plans for increasing funding for schools in the busy weeks after the Easter holiday.
On the east side of the Capitol dome, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate are taking a different course from their counterparts in the Texas Governor's mansion and the Texas House of Representatives. Lieutenant Governor Patrick has made education reform, particularly school choice, the center piece of his education policy efforts in 2015. Components of this reform include support for private schools, expansion of charter schools, and changes to school district accountability. Many of the reforms being proposed in the Senate will likely meet stiff resistance in the Texas House of Representatives, just like many House proposals will meet opposition in the Senate. The remainder of the 2015 Texas Legislature will be a series of negotiations between these two similar, but sometimes conflicting, visions for the future of public education in Texas. The session's remaining six weeks will determine which vision will hold sway for at least the next two years.
|3rd Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Day|
|Commissioners of TWC, TEA and THECB speak to grantmakers on February 24th.|
On February 24-25, 2015, the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium held its third event in Austin as part of its biennial Advocacy Convening. This year, more than 120 of philanthropists representing 48 foundations from all corners of the state, convened in Austin for two days of networking and information sharing.
On the 24th, grantmakers heard from an impressive lineup of panelists, including the chiefs of staff from Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock's office, the Education Policy Advisor to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Representatives Marsha Farney, TEA Commissioner Michael Williams, Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission Andres Alcantar, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Dr. Raymond Paredes, former Senator Florence Shapiro, the Board Chair of Texans for Education Reform, as well as experts in the field of education, both local and national. Panelists provided input on the most pressing education issues, particularly as they relate to the Consortium's three priority areas: quality pre-k, counselor capacity and the implementation of HB 5, and expanded learning opportunities.
Following the meeting on the 24th, attendees were invited to a cocktail reception at the Headliner's Club during which special guest, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, welcomed the group and spoke about the importance of prioritizing public education.
On February 25th, Consortium members met with high-ranking
legislators and their staff at the Capitol to discuss the Consortium's recommendations. Some of the most influential
|Chair of House Public Education, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, speaks to grantmakers at the Capitol.|
education leaders joined the conversation, including Speaker Joe Straus, Representatives Jimmie Don Aycock and Jason Villalba, Senators Van Taylor and Eddie Lucio, and representatives from the Governor's office. We were thrilled to see so many of you at the event in February and thank you for making it a huge success!
|Advocacy Grantee Activities Update|
|Andy Roddick addresses the crowd on the Capitol steps at the ELO Day at the Capitol|
Last summer, the Consortium chose six outstanding advocacy organizations to receive grants to help disseminate the research findings commissioned by TEGAC. These grantees have been busy throughout the past several months holding numerous events and employing various advocacy strategies to bring attention to the Consortium's research related to Pre-K, HB 5 and Expanded Learning Opportunities. Below is a summary of each grantee's recent advocacy activities.
Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST): The Texas Partnership for Out of School Time continues to be a prominent voice in support of expanded learning opportunities (ELO) in Texas. In preparation for the 2015 Legislative Session, TXPOST created the "TXPOST Advocacy Toolkit" which highlight's TEGAC's OST-Employer Strategies Study, as well as other information on ELO demand, impact, policy recommendations, and advocacy training. The toolkit was delivered to 143 legislative offices, the Governor and Lt. Governor, and was emailed to TXPOST's listserve of 2,000 plus individuals.
In February, TXPOST hosted its Expanded Learning Opportunities Day at the Texas Capitol. As many as 140 ELO advocates from across the state participated in a rally with an address from keynote speaker Andy Roddick (see photo above). The event drew considerable media attention, airing on local TV stations such as KXAN and KEYE. Attendees at the event received advocacy trainings before visiting 145 legislative offices to share the TXPOST Policymakers Toolkit. Additionally, Representative Larry Gonzales read House Resolution 598 designating February 26, 2015 as Expanded Learning Opportunities Day. Also in February, TXPOST Board members testified to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III to share TXPOST's legislative agenda which calls for an appropriation for the Expanded Learning Opportunities Initiative recommended by the ELO Council.
Quality of Life Foundation of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce: The Austin Chamber and its business leadership continue to reach out to high-ranking policymakers to discuss the Metro 8 Chamber of Commerce principles for full-day, quality pre-K. The Chamber met with Governor Greg Abbott, Speaker of the House Joe Straus, House Public Education chair Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Senate Education chair Larry Taylor, and other legislators and key staff on multiple occasions.
Children At Risk: CHILDREN AT RISK's advocacy and dissemination efforts have been focused on public pre-k, expanded learning opportunities, and HB 5. CHILDREN AT RISK hosted four press conference as well as organized/participated in numerous forums and meetings in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. The purpose of the press conferences and forums was to highlight TEGAC's research findings and policy recommendations. CHILDREN AT RISK hand-delivered a copy of the State of Pre-K study to all the members of the 84th Texas Legislature, which resulted in several follow-up meetings with key stakeholders before and during the 84th Texas Legislative Session. Meetings with policy makers around expanded learning opportunities, school counselors (HB 5), and public pre-k have taken place so that a unified message could be conveyed. Through collaboration, community presentations, public testimony, policy meetings, press conferences, opinion editorials, television and radio interviews, CHILDREN AT RISK has reached many, and continues to advocate for sound public policy that best meets the needs of Texas students.
Pastors for Texas Children: Pastors for Texas Children is unique in its advocacy strategy to support quality, full-day pre-k. PTC focuses on bringing together pastors and faith-leaders with education leaders to promote Pre-K and other public education issues. Since last July, PTC has hosted hundreds of meetings connecting pastors, faith-leaders and educational leaders throughout the state to discuss the need for full-day pre-k. PTC reached out to policymakers, meeting with over 100 state representatives to communicate the need for Pre-K education, and testified before the Senate Education Committee and delivered the invocation before the Texas House of Representatives. In an effort to expand its impact, PTC has increased pastoral and ministerial membership dramatically, with more than 750 pastors signed up as members to date. PTC has been busy with media messaging through op-eds and/or interviews with the Houston Chronicle, the Amarillo Globe, the Texas Observer, Houston NPR, Texas Public Radio, and the Austin American-Statesman. Additionally, PTC directors and members have appeared in social media several times promoting public education and full-day Pre-K.
Council for a Strong America: The Council for a Strong America (CSA), a family of five membership organizations with the voices of unexpected messengers in support of quality pre-kindergarten, has hit the ground running in collaboration with TEGAC and its colleague organizations around the state. Led by state director Joseph McMahan, CSA has produced a research report on the importance of pre-k as a crime-prevention tool for its Fight Crime: Invest in Kids organization of 160 police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys. It released the report in a press conference at the sheriff's office in Houston. CSA also sent Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature a letter signed by nine retired generals who are members of its Mission: Readiness organization about the importance of making pre-k in Texas high quality; and it's working on a similar letter from the members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. Also, Travis County Sheriff 's Office provided testimony in the Texas House of Representatives Public Education Committee regarding quality pre-k legislation. Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and Mission: Readiness met with Governor Abbott's Chief of Staff to push for bold action on improving the quality of pre-k and promoting the consortium's priorities.
In addition, CSA has been recruiting high-profile corporate leaders as part of its business leader organization, ReadyNation. Since the start of the year, ReadyNation recruited nine new members in Texas, including senior leaders from the Texas Business Leadership Council; San Antonio and Austin Chambers of Commerce; JP Morgan Chase; and the former CEO of Continental Airlines.
E3 Alliance: E3 Alliance has been working to better educate industry and community partners about the changes in high school education resulting from the passage of HB 5. In January, E3 Alliance completed original research on effective HB 5 pathways, the "Pathways of Promise" report. This two-phased research and implementation initiative targets connections for successful transitions to, and completion of, a postsecondary credential. E3 Alliance shared the research findings through forums and presentations reaching more than 450 state leaders, key influencers and practitioners. Plans are currently being developed to share these findings with a national audience through Grantmakers for Education and Greater Texas Foundation.
TEGAC Policy Priorities Released
The Consortium released the following policy priorities in preparation for the 84th Legislative Session. These issues were agreed upon by our members.
Pre-Kindergarten Policy Recommendations:
- Ensure transparency of prekindergarten assessments and program quality by increasing data available to taxpayers, parents, educators and policy makers about pre-kindergarten programs.
- Expand funding to school districts that limit staff-to-student ratios by requiring new funding for pre-kindergarten to be contingent upon the implementation of a staff-to-student ratio of 1:10.
- Create incentives for school districts to offer full-day pre-kindergarten by providing additional funding through the school funding formula or by establishing a sustainable grant program for districts wishing to expand to full-day.
House Bill 5 Implementation Policy Recommendations:
- Reduce time spent on administration of standardized tests to increase the time counselors have to perform the work they were hired to do.
- Provide counseling technology capacity building grants to allow high schools to partner with colleges, universities, and private vendors to develop and implement the technological tools to improve counseling efficiency.
- Enhance current data collection systems to ensure that House Bill 5 can be appropriately evaluated.
- Provide funding to school districts to increase the number of their counselors, to providefunding credit to colleges and universities who provide on-site college and career preparation services to non-dual credit high school students, and to take Advise Texas to scale.
- Specifically encourage school districts to create an 8th to 9th grade counselor position for each middle school to serve as a coordinator for graduating 8th grade students.
- Assist counselors to understandand use existing tools to evaluate local labor market demand.
- Encourage connections between local workforcedevelopment boards and high school campuses.
Engaging Businesses around Out of School Time Policy Recommendations:
- Establish regional or statewide coordinators to: (1) build a database of best practice models; (2) disseminate information and education about programs to working parents and companies; (3) lead the program evaluation process; (4) build new networks of stakeholders through provision of networking events across local communities and regions.
- Establish a statewide grant competition to incentivize cross-sector collaborations between a broader range of private and public stakeholders, to support innovative afterschool or summer programming.
- Create a workforce award (e.g. through Workforce Commission) for those companies leading in implementation of most family-friendly workforce/workplace policies.
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 2014 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: Alison Waxler, 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:
- Monthly legislative and policy updates
- 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 Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Day at the Capitol in February 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
TEGAC in the News:
Articles Featuring TEGAC Advocacy Grantees
|Quality Pre-K is a Smart Investment, Council for a Strong America, Fort Worth Business Press, December 5, 2014.
Let Schools, not the Travel Industry, Set Start Dates, TribTalk, March 1, 2015, Mike Feinberg and Robert Sanborn, Children at Risk
Tennis star Andy Roddick rallying for after-school funding, KXAN, February 26, 2015
TXPOST highlighted in the Texas Standard, February 27, 2015
Local pastors urged to petition for more education funding, Waco Trib, January 2015
Texas lawmakers urged to restore funding for public education, The Baptist Standard, January 14, 2015