Texas Education Grantmakers  Advocacy Consortium Newsletter 
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Issue: #17

June 2017
It has been a whirlwind of activity since the start and now completion of the 85th Regular Texas Legislative Session! We hit the ground running in January bringing the research completed in the interim by our research partners to the Capitol. Once again, our policy priorities were front and center during important legislative debates regarding public education, particularly around school finance and pre-kindergarten. In all of our priority areas, TEGAC members and its advocacy partners helped set the tone for important legislation related to our core policy areas, i.e. school finance, pre-kindergarten, teacher preparation and guided pathways. As you have probably heard, Gov. Abbott announced he was calling the Legislature back for a special session to address must-pass "sunset" legislation and 19 other measures. We will continue to follow policy discussions as they relate to our priority areas during the special session that will begin on July 18. Our partners at HillCo have provided a more detailed recap of the 85th Legislative Session below. 

In addition to our regular legislative visits, on February 28 and March 1, we successfully gathered philanthropists from around the state at our 4th Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Convening in Austin. The 2017 event was big, drawing more than 45 foundations and 100 foundation representatives from around the state. Thank you to all who participated in this wonderful two-day event!

Now that the regular legislative session has ended, the Consortium has spent the past month organizing events throughout the state for grantmakers to discuss critical public education policy issues and the local impact of recent statewide public education legislation on communities across the state. These meetings provide foundation leaders an opportunity to explore the local impact of public education legislation passed during the 85th legislative session. We are so encouraged by the amazing turnout we've seen at these sessions and thank each of you who have helped make them a success! 

Furthermore, we will be doing more work with an exciting new partner, the Alliance for Early Success, to replicate our Texas model of engaging grantmakers in state policy and advocacy. The Alliance for Early Success, a national nonprofit that brings together state, national, and funding partners to improve state policies for children, birth through age 8, is in its second year of a partnership with TEGAC to replicate our grantmaker advocacy model in four states across the country this year through our Philanthropy Engagement Project (PEP), including Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina. Read more about our PEP below. 

Lastly, we are thrilled to announce three new members, Houston Endowment, The Morris Foundation and the Reissa Foundation. This brings our total membership to 40 foundation members representing every corner of the state! Thanks to each and every one of you for making this the largest foundation policy collaborative anywhere in the country!

As always, thank you for your support and your participation in this innovative work. We couldn't this work without you!
85th Legislative Session Updatelegislative
TEGAC members and advocacy partners hold press conference during the regular legislative session to urge lawmakers to support high quality pre-k.
The Texas 85th Regular Session by the Numbers, by Trish Bode,  Client Communications and Research Analysis, HillCo Partners

The 85th Session was comprised of:
  • 140 days
  • 150 House members, 31 Senate members, 1 Governor who had a total of 5 emergency items for must pass legislation, 1 Lt. Governor with 30 legislative priorities who later declared 2 as must pass legislation - SB 6 (Bathroom/Privacy) & SB 2 (Property Tax) 
  • 1 House Speaker who listed several priorities he had including addressing school finance
  • 6631 House Bills and Senate Bills filed - a record number of bills filed
  • 1211 House Bills and Senate Bills passed - the lowest amount passed the finish line since 1995. 
  • Over 1000 education bills filed with about 100 bills reaching the governor's desk
The 85th Legislative Session has been  described  as one of the most contentious legislative sessions in Texas history.  Heavily divisive topics such as sanctuary cities, abortion, voter ID, bathrooms and religious freedom caused emotions to boil over and for various groups to express their frustration through passionate protest, as well as a hijacking of the legislative process. At the same time, there were some high points and key initiatives that gained momentum. 
School finance played a starring role during the 85th Legislative Session but ultimately did not make it to the finish line. This is the farthest a school finance bill has moved through the legislative process in several decades without a court order. House Bill 21 (Huberty) passed out of the House with significant bi-partisan support but was altered significantly in the Senate, so much so that the House could no longer support the bill. Ultimately, the bill died in conference committee because the two sides could not reach agreement on issues such as Education Savings Accounts and charter facilities funding. 
Other finance-related topics of interest for TEGAC members included:
  • High Quality Pre-K Funding: Unfortunately, Pre-K grant funding in the form of House Bill 4 from the 2015 session has been discontinued but the high quality language still exists in school districts' formula-funded Pre-K programs. Districts will now be required to demonstrate that 15% of their Pre-K formula funding is going towards high quality practices. 
  • School Finance Interim Commission - Senate Bill 2144 (L. Taylor) would have established a 15-member commission to study school finance during the interim.  While the bill did not pass, the topic has been added to the governor's list of priorities for the July 2017 special session.
Teacher preparation and student pathways were also considered during the 85th Legislative Session. TEGAC's various advocates were highly visible and helped to set the tone for meaningful legislation, as well as future interim discussions. Additionally, TEGAC-funded research was disseminated throughout the Capitol and served as a useful tool during the session. 
As we write this update, the Texas Legislature is preparing for a  special session to begin on July 18, 2017.  Twenty items have been listed as priorities for Governor Abbott, including topics such as school funding, property tax reform and local ordinances. Expect to receive updates from us throughout the process. And on that note, thanks very much for the opportunity to keep TEGAC members updated.
4th Annual Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Conveningannual
Panel discussion at the luncheon on February 28. 
The Consortium hosted its biggest event, the Texas Education Grantmakers Policy Symposium and Advocacy Day, in Austin on February 28 and March 1, 2017. Every odd-numbered year, this unique grantmaker event brings together hundreds of foundation representatives in Austin to discuss current public education topics, specifically as they relate to public education policy, during the legislative session. The event constitutes the largest gathering of private philanthropy at the Texas Capitol in the history of the state on any public policy issue. 

This year, we had over 100 foundation staff and trustees representing 45 private family and community foundations and United Ways from across the state. The event included a day-long education policy
Representative Ken King was introduced by TEGAC member Charlotte Rhodes of the Amarillo Area Foundation
symposium and a day-long series of meetings with individual legislators at the Texas Capitol. 

On February 28, conference attendees heard multiple presentations from policymakers, advocates, journalists and researchers from around the state. Among them were representatives from Grantmakers for Education; Alliance for Early Success; Alliance for Justice; Center for Public Policy Priorities; Dallas Regional Chamber; State Representative Trent Ashby; Harvey Kronberg (Quorum Report), Jim Henson (Texas Politics Project), Ross Ramsey (Texas Tribune) and  Evan Smith, CEO, The Texas Tribune; Dr. Scott Ridley, Dean of Education, Texas Tech University and Dr. William Serrata, President, El Paso Community College. 

Representative Gary VanDeaver speaks to foundation members at the Texas Capitol.

On March 1, foundation members met with Chairman of Senate Education, Sen. Larry Taylor (R, District 11, Galveston), Julie Shields, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Eddie Lucio (D, District 27, Brownsville), Rep. Ken King (R, District 88, Canadian), Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R, District 1, New Boston), and Rep. Linda Koop (R, District 102, Dallas). We also had a visit from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. These meetings are primarily meant to meet three objectives in a short period of time: (1) ensure that legislators understand that Texas philanthropy is a resource for policymakers, (2) talk about priorities and find alignment where possible, and (3) help grantmakers understand where and how to best align limited private investment with public dollars.
Austin Legislative Debrief hosted by the Austin Community Foundation
The Consortium held four legislative debrief meetings to update members and other interested Texas grantmakers on public education policies resulting from the 85th Legislative Session, as well as an overview of how the work of TEGAC and its partners around its four priority areas set the tone for policy discussions during the session.

As of June, TEGAC has held legislative debriefs in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Dallas Legislative Debrief hosted by The Dallas Foundation
These meetings provide foundation leaders an opportunity to explore the local impact of public education legislation in their communities as a result of the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. In the Consortium's interactions across the state, we share ideas and information and solicit feedback from foundation leaders, policymakers and advocates for public education to ensure the Consortium's priorities represent the concerns of the larger education community and that our priorities have the best possible chance to make an effective impact on 5.3 million public school students.

A special thanks to our host foundation members, including the Austin Community Foundation, Central Texas Education Funders, The Dallas Foundation, Houston Endowment, the Powell Foundation, and the San Antonio Area Foundation. 
Philanthropy Engagement Projectphilanthropy
In addition to our core work, TEGAC is partnering with an exciting new national partner, the Alliance for Early Success, to replicate our Texas model and to bring the expertise and national network of early childhood experts to Texas. The Alliance for Early Success (the Alliance) is a national nonprofit that brings together state, national, and funding partners to improve state policies that lead to improved health, learning and economic outcomes for young children, birth through age 8. The Alliance works to create and enhance partnerships by bringing leaders together in new and innovative ways, with the goal of achieving results faster and better than anyone could do alone.

The Alliance is currently in its second year of a partnership with TEGAC to adapt our grantmaker advocacy model in four states: Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina. In year three and beyond, our plan is to continue to support these four states and also expand our pool of states to include additional states. TEGAC and the Alliance will be leading and managing the individual state work, as well as the Philanthropy Engagement Project Peer Learning Network, a community of practice that we have developed to share our model and encourage learning among grantmakers across the five states. The peer network across foundations mirrors the Alliance model to engage foundations across the country to come together in support of early childhood advocacy and policy. The Dallas Foundation and the North Texas Community Foundation are our lead Texas partners in the PEP Peer Learning Network.

As part of the Peer Learning Network, PEP partners in each of the five states join together every month on a webinar to discuss issues, share best practices, and give updates on policy happenings in each state. In early June PEP partners gathered together in Phoenix for a day and a half of learning and networking. 
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 40 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, 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, Executive Director, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, at jennifermesterline@gmail.com or 512.796.4530

Quick Links
TEGAC on the Texas Tribune Website! 

In an effort to spread the word about the work TEGAC is doing, we submitted a new advertisement on the Texas Tribune website (see screen shot above). 

TEGAC Released its 2016 Annual Report! 

If you haven't had a chance to see our 2016 annual report, click here