ATPE News

Winter 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at ATPE.org.

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20 ATPE NEWS I n 2015, legislators gave late approval to a law that per- mits acceptably rated school districts to exempt themselves from various state regulations through a District of Innovation (DOI) declaration. Dozens of dis- tricts have undertaken the pro- cess to become a DOI and start- ed claiming exemptions from state laws covering the school start date, teacher certification requirements, class-size limits, and a host of other standards. Commissioner of Education Mike Morath recently finalized rules to implement the DOI law, which gave the commissioner extreme- ly limited oversight. ATPE and some lawmakers have expressed concerns about the breadth of the DOI law and the possibility it will result in declining educational outcomes and an erosion of par- ents' and educators' rights. ATPE supports limiting, repeal- ing, or adding safeguards to regu- latory exemptions that have been granted to some public schools. We urge lawmakers to consid- er potential negative effects of broad DOI exemptions and take proactive measures to prevent a decline in classroom quality if districts exempt themselves from research-based statutes that were Visit atpe.org/advocacy-central to stay informed throughout the legislative session. ATPE is fighting for your rights, and Advocacy Central is the place to keep a close eye on hot-button issues. L t. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) is once again leading a charge in the Texas Senate to push private school vouchers, claiming students have a "civil right" to attend a private school of their choice at taxpayers' expense. While ATPE supports parents' right to choose their children's educational setting, we will continue to fight against sending public funds to schools that are not held ac- countable for how they spend the money and not required to comply with state and federal laws that protect students. ATPE will also oppose legislation that takes state dollars away from our public schools and places the money instead into an Education Savings Account (ESA), which essentially lets parents use a state-funded debit card for any expense they feel is warranted for their child's education, including home and private school costs. The best way for Texas to adequately and equitably fund the education needs of our children is by focusing on neighborhood public schools—not by paying for a parallel system of unregulated private schools. ATPE opposes the privatization of public schools. We urge the legislature to re- ject any voucher, scholarship, tax credit, education savings account, or similar pro- gram that directs funding away from the public schools and toward unaccountable, often inferior educational settings. We also oppose using public tax dollars to pay private entities to operate Texas public schools and take over the authority vested in locally elected school boards. Opposing Vouchers and other Privatization Plans Fostering Educator Quality T he educator pipeline remains a high priority, and ATPE will continue to advocate for laws that will help us build and support an esteemed work- force and provide fulfilling career options for those who choose to enter the vital teaching profession. ATPE supports improving educator quality through selective recruitment and rigorous training of future educators combined with supporting and rewarding teachers in order to maximize retention. We recom- mend raising the standards for educator prepara- tion and certification; state-funded mentoring for all new teachers; increasing teacher compensation while preserving the integrity of the state's mini- mum salary schedule; and evaluating teachers in a manner that is fair, transparent, statistically valid, and meaningful. Limiting and Monitoring Regulatory Exemptions continued on page 40

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