Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium Newsletter 
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Issue: #15

June 2016
The summer months are upon us, which means we now have only six months until the 85th Legislative Session! The Consortium's preparations for 2017 are in full swing. We have been busy organizing district meetings with members over the past four months. In these meetings, TEGAC members have met directly with members of the Texas Legislature in their home districts to discuss the role of philanthropy in their communities, as well as some of the details around the Consortium's education priorities, including pre-K, guided pathways, and teacher preparation. 

The Consortium also hosted two community foundation subcommittee meetings in the first half of 2016 in Austin and Fort Worth to bring together community foundations from across the state to discuss the role of community foundations in advocacy. We also held our Spring membership meeting in Austin in April to give members the chance to network with foundation colleagues while hearing from key policymakers and education experts.

Additionally, our policy work groups are making great progress. We have selected our three research partners, each of whom has kicked off their respective research projects around HB 4 implementation (pre-K), HB 5 (pathways) implementation, and teacher preparation. The Consortium also plans to award advocacy grants to ensure the information resulting from our research projects is disseminated broadly to legislators, media and the public. Most of these grants will take place later this summer.
We are thrilled to welcome two new foundation members to the Consortium, the Cooper Foundation (Waco) and the Waco Foundation. Last year, we established the goal of growing our membership to 35 members in 2016, and with the addition of these two foundations, we have officially met our goal! As we add members, the Consortium continues to expand representation to almost every corner of the state, ensuring all communities have a voice in important public education policy discussions. 

In other very exciting news, Grantmakers for Education selected the Consortium for a case study that was showcased at their biennial Education Policy Institute at Harvard University in April. Over 50 foundation representatives from across the country came together at the Institute to examine the Consortium's groundbreaking work in Texas. The response was so positive that GFE has decided to showcase the case study again at their annual 2016 conference in Denver this fall.

As always, thank you for your participation and interest in this work. We hope you have a wonderful summer!

2016 Policy Works Group Update

Guided Pathways to College and Career: The Consortium just completed a research project with the George H.W. Bush School for Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University to produce credible research that explores how Texas school districts are implementing HB 5 (new high school graduation endorsements) in individual districts across the state. The research includes policy recommendations to prepare for the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. In addition to the full report, TAMU also created an executive summary and a parent guide. You can access these documents on our website: www.tegac.org. 

The Consortium will be working over the summer to develop an RFP to identify advocacy partners to disseminate the policy recommendations ahead of the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. This RFP will be developed and disseminated by July 2016 and advocacy grants will be made by the end of the summer.

Early Childhood Education and Pre-Kindergarten: The Consortium made a $40,000 grant earlier this year to Texans Care for Children to produce the research for our Early Childhood Education and Pre-Kindergarten Policy Work Group. The research analyzes TEA data to understand which districts applied for new pre-K funding under HB 4 and which did not, why they did or did not apply for the funding, and how districts are using the funds.

In May, the Pre-K Policy Work Group also approved research grants to five regional partners to help with regional data collection. These grantees are: Commit! Dallas (Early Matters Dallas), Greater Houston Partnership (Early Matters Houston), Children's Defense Fund, United Way of Greater Austin, and Early Learning Alliance (Fort Worth). With oversight by Texans Care for Children, each local partner will produce and disseminate a four-to-six page report by Fall 2016.

Texans Care for Children will produce a statewide report and collaborate with regional partners on local reports to share their findings and provide guidance to state legislators considering next steps on the pre-K grant program during the 2017 legislative session. The Consortium will also develop and distribute a Request For Proposal for advocacy grants later this summer to disseminate the policy recommendations leading up to and through the 2017 Texas Legislative Session.

Teacher Preparation and Support: The Consortium is partnering with Educate Texas to share and scale research to support the Texas teacher corps through the Texas Teacher Preparation Collaborative. The Collaborative provides a statewide platform for practitioners and policy makers to focus on teacher preparation and highlight the best practices and policies that Texas can adopt to make real change for current and future Texas teachers.

The Collaborative is being chaired by Jim Nelson, former Commissioner of Education, and is meeting from the fall of 2015 through the fall of 2016 in order to examine the best practices and policies at the district, higher education, state and national levels; review the research on effective teacher preparation practices; share the changes that programs have made to their teacher preparation practices and policies; and make recommendations that can be implemented for both policy and practice of teacher preparation. The Consortium is partnering with the Texas Teacher Preparation Collaborative to incorporate teacher voice into the Collaborative's findings through focus groups with teachers across the state. 

The Consortium released an RFP for a research partner last month and received eight proposals in response. TEGAC's Teacher Prep Policy Work Group selected TNTP as its research partner. TNTP will spend the next several months conducting focus groups and producing a final report of the findings. Later this fall, TEGAC's Teacher Preparation Policy Work Group will engage a diverse array of voices, including the faith community, teachers' associations, teacher prep advocates, and others to create consensus and develop shared messaging around the Collaborative's policy recommendations.
Spring Meetings Update
Community Foundation Subcommittee Meetings:
The Consortium hosted two community foundation subcommittee meetings, one in Austin in January and another in Fort Worth in March. Both meetings were attended by more than 20 foundation representatives. These subcommittees have developed specific talking points for community foundations and have participated in meetings with Texas legislators throughout the spring. The subcommittee continues to explore ways to supplement the work of the policy work groups and the Consortium in general by focusing on the roles that community foundations specifically can play in this work.

Spring Members Meeting: The Consortium also hosted its annual Spring Members meeting in Austin at the end of April. More than 35 foundations were represented from across the state. The meeting included conversations with legislative staffers, education reporters, and education experts on various public education policy issues. 
District Meetings: Consortium members began meeting with legislators in their home districts over the spring months with plans for at least four more visits planned over the summer months. So far, 18 Consortium members have met with ten members of the Texas Legislature in Dallas, Fort Worth, Bryan, Houston, Humble, Amarillo, Austin, Plano, Arlington, and Friendswood. These meetings provide an opportunity for foundations to talk about the role of philanthropy in their communities, the role of the Consortium, and specific details about our policy priorities.
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. 

If you are an advocate, it's hard to find foundation money to support advocacy. If you are a foundation, it's hard to find advocacy organizations that your board of directors will choose to fund. The Consortium bridges the gap between pragmatic advocates and impact-oriented foundations to support advocacy for the 5.15 million children in Texas public schools.

Who is involved in the Consortium?

The Consortium's members include more than 30 family, corporate, community, and private foundations from across Texas. Membership dues are low and grants for advocacy and research pass through the Consortium. Participating foundations represent Texas' smallest communities and largest cities. The Consortium represents the largest foundation policy collaborative in Texas history.  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 by making a financial contribution to the Consortium. Contributions will cover the costs of the Consortium's operations. 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 does the Consortium do? 
  • Biennial survey of and statewide meetings with foundations to determine common interests and priorities across a huge and diverse state
  • Direct engagement with legislators and staff concerning the priorities of philanthropy without lobbying for specific legislation or bills
  • Pooled grantmaking opportunities with foundations from across Texas to maximize small grants through joint funding of research and advocacy. Research topics have included impact of budget cuts, pre-kindergarten quality, business attitudes on out-of-school time, and middle and high school counselor availability.
  • Partnerships with unusual suspects to highlight research supported by the Consortium, including Chambers of Commerce, Pastors for Texas Children, active duty police officers and sheriffs, and retired United States Admirals and Generals.
  • Engagement with social and print media, including opinion pieces in the state's largest newspapers authored by foundation trustees 

To learn more, please contact Jennifer Esterline, Project Consultant, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, at jennifermesterline@gmail.com or 512.796.4530
2016 Policy Work Groups Update
Spring Meetings Update
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