Texas Education Grantmakers  Advocacy Consortium Newsletter 
 
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Issue: #18

November 2017
   
Dear TEGAC Partner,

As we close in on the end of 2017, we have many updates to share with you! The summer months were instrumental in building on our past success and planning for the future of the Consortium. Between June and September, TEGAC's strategic planning committee met several times to develop TEGAC's first Strategic Framework document, which will guide our work over the next five years. The document describes in detail our mission and vision, accomplishments to date, strategies and goals, guiding principles, governing structure, and growth and sustainability plan over the next several legislative cycles.  This strategic plan will be critical as we continue to grow in size and influence, and as word of the TEGAC model continues to spread and garner attention from other states. 

In August, we once again surveyed our members to ask them which public education issues they would like to see TEGAC focus on in 2019. We brought the survey results to our Fall Members Meeting in September and asked our members to approve four policy issues in preparation for 2019. TEGAC members approved the following policy priorities for the 86th Texas Legislative Session:  1) Teacher Preparation and Support, 2) Guided Pathways to College and Career, 3) Early Childhood Education, and 4) School Finance.  This fall, we are hard at work to raise the necessary funding from our members to support one or more of these work groups so that we can again provide critical, objective data that will inform policymakers on important public education issues. Our goal is to have all policy work group funding committed by the end of 2017. Read more on our policy work groups below. 

Also, during our Fall Member Meeting, we held our first ever Legislator Appreciation Luncheon honoring those legislators who worked on behalf of Texas public education during the 85th Texas Legislative Session. We had a tremendous turnout with twelve legislators and several other staff members in attendance (see more on this below). Moving forward, we plan to host this event after each legislative session. 

This summer the Texas Legislature held a special session aimed at taking on twenty topics, one of which was school finance. The special session started on July 18 and came to an end on Aug. 15. Our advocacy consultants at HillCo have provided an update below on the impact of the special session as it relates to public education.

In October, TEGAC, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, and Dr. Michael Marder at the University of Texas released the first phase of our analysis of how school districts absorbed the legislative cuts made in 2011 and the long-term impact of those cuts on Texas students. This work builds on TEGAC's initial investment in a 2012 Children At Risk study that looked at the immediate impact of the 2011 cuts in Texas public schools. The new research  findings show that education spending in the state of Texas remains below pre-recession levels of 2008 for students in every grade, and that services for students with the highest needs have been most impacted by the funding cuts. This research will play a key role in TEGAC's school finance policy work in 2018 and 2019 and, we hope, will provide important data to the Texas Public School Finance Commission during the interim period.

As we close out 2017 and look toward 2018, some of TEGAC's most important work begins, so stay tuned for more updates as we begin to hone the scope of work of each of our four policy work groups. We encourage all of our TEGAC members to get engaged in one or more of these policy work groups. This is a great way for Texas grantmakers to increase their understanding of key public education policy issues and leverage current grantmaking to have a bigger impact in ensuring all Texas students can achieve their educational goals from cradle to career.

Finally, we are excited to announce three new grantmakers that have joined the Consortium: The Hoglund Foundation in Dallas, The Miles Foundation in Forth Worth, and United Way for Greater Austin. We are delighted to have these esteemed colleagues join our ranks, so please join us in welcoming them!

Thank you for your continued interest and support of the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium. We simply couldn't do this work without you! Wishing you a happy holiday season!!

85th Special Session legislative
Special Session Update by Trish Bode, HillCo Partners

The House and Senate spent the 85th First Called Special Session largely facing the stalemate they had at the end of the regular legislative session. The Governor announced that not only would Sunset legislation be on the call but there would also be an additional 19 other items. The Senate did refer Sunset Legislation - SB 20 (V. Taylor) & SB 60 (V. Taylor) - to committee on the first day. On the second day of session, the Senate passed both bills out of the chamber and sent them over to the House for further deliberation. The Governor then released his proclamation with his promised additional items.
 
By the end of the second week of Special Session, the Senate had passed legislation addressing almost all items on the call - a total of 20 bills. The House had passed out legislation addressing several items on the call including: sunset legislation, local control/trees, abortion reporting requirements, maternal morbidity, property tax, teacher retirement, and school finance. The House also passed legislation addressing groundwater and Medicaid therapy rate cuts.
 
In the 30 days of deliberation, it became clear that differences could not be resolved in key bills addressing property tax reform and, in part, school finance. As a result, Sine Die came rather abruptly with 12 total bills passing both chambers. Those bills included the two Sunset bills listed above and impacted health care, local government regulation, mail-in ballots, and education. Two education bills passed out the 85th First Called Special Session including HB 21 (Huberty) and HB 30 (Zerwas), which would fund HB 21. However, the school finance bill language looked much different in the special session (details below):
 
HB 21 (Huberty) Relating to public school finance, including funding for the recruitment and retention of teachers and the support of participants in the public school employees group insurance program.
  • Funding for several public and charter school initiatives, funding mechanism outlined in HB 30
  • $563 million total funding includes:
    • $212 million premium and deductible assistance for certain TRS-Care members
    • $150 million for ASATR funding ($100 million in FY 18 & $50 million in FY 19)
    • $60 million in Existing Debt Allotment funding for FY 19
    • $60 million in charter facilities funding for FY 19
    • $41 million for the small school adjustment
    • $20 million autism grant program funding
    • $20 million dyslexia grant program funding
  • HB 21 also establishes a Public School Finance Commission to study and make recommendations for the Texas public school system
  • Signed by the Governor on 8/16, effective on 11/14/17
HB 30 (Zerwas) Relating to the transfer of certain appropriations to the Texas Education Agency and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the adjustment of appropriations for public school finance.
  • Funding mechanism/appropriations authority for HB 21
  • Signed by the Governor on 8/16, effective immediately
 
Public School Finance Commission Update

The State Board of Education and the Lt. Governor have announced appointments to the Public School Finance Commission, which was established when HB 21 passed during the 85th Special Legislative Session. Under provisions of the bill, the commission is "established to develop and make recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools." Specifically, bill language states recommendations developed shall address issues related to the public school finance system, including:

(1) the purpose of the public school finance system and the relationship between state and local funding in that system;
(2) the appropriate levels of local maintenance and operations and interest and sinking fund tax effort necessary to implement a public school finance system that complies with the requirements under the Texas Constitution; and
(3) policy changes to the public school finance system necessary to adjust for student demographics and the geographic diversity in the state.
   
The law specifies the following committee make-up of 13 members, consisting of the following:

(1) four members appointed by the governor;
(2) four members appointed by the lieutenant governor;
(3) four members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; and
(4) a member of the State Board of Education, as designated by the chair of that board.
 
Below is a list of the appointments made by the State Board of Education (SBOE), Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Governor Greg Abbott. Speaker Straus has not yet announced his appointments. No schedule for the commission has been established.
 
SBOE Appointment (1)
Keven Ellis, a Lufkin chiropractor
 
Lt. Governor (4) 
Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood
Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas
Dr. Doug Killian, Superintendent of Pflugerville ISD

Governor (4) 
Scott Brister, Chair, Partner at Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP
Melissa Martin, Career and Technology teacher for the Galena Park Independent School District
Elvira Reyna,  Former State Representative for House District 101 and member of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers
Todd Williams, Founding Chairman and Executive Director for The Commit Partnership and Education Policy Advisor to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

House Speaker (4) - The Speaker has not announced his appointments.
TEGAC Fall Members Meeting and Luncheon Honoring Texas Legislatorsannual
Senator Kel Seliger speaking to TEGAC members at the fall luncheon
As part of its ongoing effort to provide foundation members with opportunities to come together to network and learn about policy issues, TEGAC holds two member meetings in Austin each year. During these meetings, TEGAC members hear from education and political reporters, legislators and their staff, representatives from the executive agencies, researchers, advocates, and other education policy experts.

The Consortium hosted its Fall Members Meeting on September 22, 2017 at the Austin Club with more than 80 grantmakers in attendance.  This year, we also held a luncheon honoring Texas legislators who worked to protect and improve public education during the 85th Texas Legislative Session. TEGAC honored twelve legislators, including Senators Sylvia R Garcia, Kel Seliger and Kirk Watson, as well as Representatives Trent Ashby, Diego Bernal, Drew Darby,  Mary Gonz├ílez,  Lance Gooden,  Dan Huberty, Ken King,  Hugh D. Shine , and Gary  VanDeaver . These interactions with policymakers help to solidify TEGAC's reputation as an objective resource to policymakers around critical public education issues. 
Representative Mary Gonzalez speaking to TEGAC members

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Representative Drew Darby and TEGAC Chair-Elect, Dr. Wynn Rosser

This fall, we begin developing our 2018-2019 policy work groups. After every legislative session, TEGAC's Leadership Committee surveys its membership to gauge members' interests around the most important education policy issues. This exercise ensures that there is shared consensus around the Consortium's priority policy issues over the biennium in preparation for the upcoming legislative session. This fall, our members approved the following policy issues: 
  1. Early Childhood Education
  2. School Finance
  3. Teacher Preparation 
  4. Guided Pathways to College and Career
Between now and December 2017, our goal is to raise a minimum of $600,000 for our four membership-approved policy work groups.  These grants will be used to commission credible research partners to collect and/or analyze data and identify policy recommendations in the first half of 2018. These policy recommendations form the basis of TEGAC's policy agenda/talking points as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session. In 2018, we will also begin identifying traditional and nontraditional advocacy partners to disseminate these policy recommendations leading up to and through the 2019 Texas Legislative Session. 

In 2018- 2019, we are hoping to go deeper in each of our policy areas by increasing the scope of our work groups in two ways: increasing the dollar amount raised per work group member (an average increase from approximately $10,000 for the two-year biennium to an average of $25,000 per foundation for 2018-2019), and increasing the number of foundations participating in each work group. This increase will allow us to commission more in-depth data collection and both improve and expand the number of partnerships with advocacy partners around key public education issues.

If you have not already committed to participating in a work group, we hope your foundation will consider it. Please contact Jennifer Esterline if you have questions or would like more information. Thank you in advance for supporting our policy work groups! 
About TEGAC
 
About Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC)
 
In 2011 the Texas Legislature approved historic cuts to funding for public education. Grantmakers 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 Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium ("TEGAC" or '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 grantmakers to increase the impact of its advocacy efforts. The Consortium partners with policymakers, the media, the business community, academics, advocates, parents and others to ensure the broadest dissemination of its work. 

Who is involved in TEGAC?

TEGAC's members include 43 family, corporate, community, and private foundations and United Ways 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 the country. 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 TEGAC?
 
Foundations are encouraged to become members by making a financial contribution to TEGAC. Contributions will cover the costs of the Consortium's operations. The suggested contribution is $5,000 annually; however, members are encouraged to contribute at an amount commensurate with their endowment size. TEGAC has 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 both traditional and unexpected messengers to highlight research supported by TEGAC, 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, Executive Director, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, at jennifermesterline@gmail.com or 512.796.4530
In This Issue:

Quick Links
Center for Public Policy Priorities and TEGAC Release Groundbreaking Report! 

In 2016, TEGAC commissioned the Center for Public Policy Priorities to partner with Dr. Michael Marder to combine his longitudinal research at the University of Texas on student performance with their expertise on school finance. Together, they are exploring trends and correlations in the school finance data between various investments we make in our schools and the outcomes the education system produces for our children. The first phase of this project focuses on a longitudinal analysis of how school districts absorbed the legislative cuts made in 2011 and was published this past October. Since its release, the report has been cited in over 13 news stories and will be used to shape future debates about public school funding in 2019. Read the report here


Spreading the Word! 

Over the last several months, TEGAC has been invited to present at various meetings throughout the state. This November, TEGAC presented at the Alliance for Early Success Summit in Tampa. TEGAC discussed early childhood policy and advocacy with advocates from across the nation. Also in November, TEGAC and its research partners, UT Austin and the Center for Public Policy Priorities, were invited to discuss the school finance research with urban superintendents from across the state.