Texas Education Grantmakers  Advocacy Consortium Newsletter 
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Issue: #16

October 2016
It's hard to believe that we are approaching the end of the year and will soon begin 2017. The  past six months have ushered in a new phase of development for the Consortium. We continue to grow our membership surpassing our goals as word is spreading about the innovative work we are doing in Texas. We anticipate that we will have 40 members by the end of the year!

Even more amazing is that interest in the Consortium outside of Texas continues to grow. Many states have contacted us, particularly since our Grantmakers for Education case study was released earlier this year, to ask us if we could share our model and comment on how to replicate it in other states. In September, TEGAC members and staff presented at the Exponent Philanthropy conference, and our case study will be presented for a second time this year at the Grantmakers for Education annual conference in Denver at the end of the month.

The Consortium has also entered into an exciting new partnership with 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. The Alliance is partnering with TEGAC to replicate our grantmaker advocacy model in four states across the country this year through its Philanthropy Engagement Project, including Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina. TEGAC will be leading and managing the Philanthropy Engagement Project Peer Learning Network in order to share our model and encourage learning among grantmakers across the five states.

Over the past few months, we've made good progress within our three policy work groups. In September, two of our three research partners released their preliminary research findings, and our teacher prep research findings will be released by the end of the month. These research findings will inform our policy recommendations around pre-K, guided pathways, and teacher prep. The Consortium is also working on a school finance research project that is currently underway.

Once again, the Consortium's policy priorities are shaping up to be some of the top education priorities this upcoming legislative session. School finance will top the list, but other key issues being discussed at the Texas Capitol that are also TEGAC priorities include guided pathways and teacher preparation.

On September 28th we held our annual Fall Membership meeting in Austin. We had a tremendous turn out and a variety of insightful and entertaining speakers. Thank you to all who joined us for this event! 

Lastly, we are thrilled to welcome our new policy consultant, Dr. Michelle Smith with HillCo Partners. Michelle will replace Jason Sabo, founder and principal of Frontera Strategy, who has worked with the Consortium for the last five years to help get us where we are today. Michelle will provide advocacy support to the Consortium on issues relating to TEGAC's role in promoting, protecting and improving public education in Texas leading up to and through the 2017 Texas Legislative Session.  We are excited to have her expertise to support the Consortium through the next phase of our efforts. 

As always, thank you for your support and your participation in this innovative work. We couldn't do what we do without you!
2016 Policy Works Group Update
TEGAC Research Reports are Available!

Guided Pathways to College and Career:
Commissioned by the Consortium, the George H.W. Bush School for Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University completed its research project exploring how Texas school districts are implementing HB 5 (new high school graduation endorsements) in individual districts across the state. This critical research includes policy recommendations for successful implementation of HB 5 to prepare for the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. The reports include: recommendations for stakeholders, an executive summary and a parent guide

In July, the Consortium released an RFP to identify advocacy partners to disseminate these policy recommendations ahead of the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. We are currently in the process of awarding advocacy grants.

Early Childhood Education and Pre-Kindergarten

Texans Care for Children released its new report, " Ensuring the Success of HB 4 & Texas Students: A Preliminary Analysis of the Texas High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program," on the Texas high-quality pre-k grant program established by HB 4, providing a new analysis of school district participation in the grant program and policy recommendations. The report was commissioned and supported by TEGAC. 

In collaboration with Texans Care for Children and TEGAC, six non-profit, non-partisan groups working in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, and Waco will conduct more locally-focused assessments of HB 4 implementation and community pre-k priorities for publication prior to the 2017 legislative session. Additionally, the Consortium distributed a Request For Proposal for advocacy grants this month. Grantees for pre-K advocacy will be announced in November.

Teacher Preparation and Support:  TEGAC's Teacher Prep Policy Work Group selected TNTP as its research partner. TNTP is currently conducting focus groups with teachers across the state and will produce its final report of the findings later this month. Beginning 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.
Fall Meeting Update
Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, discusses research findings on HB 4 implementation

Our Fall Members meeting on September 28th was a particularly memorable one! Members kicked off the day with Harvard professor Jim Honan who led the group through the Grantmakers For Education Policy Institute case study. Over lunch we heard from J Puckett, senior partner of the Boston Consulting Group, who currently leads the firm's Global Education Practice. Mr. Puckett spoke about national education trends and how those translate at the state level. He also gave the group an update on a new collaboration with the TEA to develop the agency's first strategic plan. 

Evan Smith,
CEO and co-founder of the Texas Tribune
, speaks to members during the fall members meeting
Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of the Texas Tribune, kept things interesting as always with a discussion about what to expect during the 2017 Texas Legislative Session.

The group also heard from TEGAC research partners about their research findings in the areas of pre-K, guided pathways and teacher prep.

TEGAC members discuss policy work groups during the luncheon
TEGAC Hires New Policy Consultant
Welcome Our New Policy Consultant Michelle Smith!

Dr. Michelle Smith recently joined as TEGAC's new policy/advocacy consultant. As part of the HillCo Partners team,  Michelle connects policy, research and classroom experience to offer innovative approaches to the challenges in education policy in Texas. Since joining HillCo Partners in 2010, her focus has been on various issues in public education including public school finance, school choice, assessment and accountability, facilities funding, transparency, and public retirement plans. In addition to her advocacy and research responsibilities, Smith has served as the executive director of the Fast Growth School Coalition (FGSC) for the past five years, concluding in August of 2016.

Smith brings a unique perspective to the education policy space because she has served as a public school teacher and holds a doctorate in School Improvement from Texas State University. For the past six years, she has worked with education-based for-profits,  not-for-profits, advocacy organizations and nonprofit associations. Smith is  particularly skilled at educating association members and boards of directors regarding how  to positively engage in the legislative process. She has presented throughout the state to  school districts, education service centers, nonprofit organizations, and colleges of education regarding education  policy and the political process.
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, Executive Director, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, at jennifermesterline@gmail.com or 512.796.4530
2016 Policy Work Groups Update
Fall Meeting Update
TEGAC Hires New Advocacy Consultant
Quick Links
New TEGAC Website! 

As interest in the Consortium grows, more people around the state and country are visiting our website. As such, we recently completed an overhaul of the website. The new site has a more sophisticated look with more attractive features and user-friendly links, as well as updated information in areas of research,news, among others.  Check out our new look at www.tegac.org!