After several years, the involvement of numerous community organizations, and leaders at all levels of government, Robert E. Lee Road is now Buffalo Soldiers Road.
It has taken the State of Texas until 2019 to write that slavery was the central cause of the Civil War in our history curriculum; until 2020, to adopt an African American Studies course, and longer to remove Confederate plaques and monuments honoring the names and actions of slave traders, defenders of slavery, and traitors to our nation.
On June 23, El Paso City Council accepted my $1,500 donation dedicated to offset renaming expenses and voted to change the name to Buffalo Soldiers Road. This endeavor joins the efforts of Fort Bliss' Buffalo Soldier Gate and meets the Buffalo Soldier Monument commemorating the 1870 expedition by the all African American 9th Calvary that had a substantial presence on Fort Bliss.
As a community, we find ourselves in a pivotal moment where the opportunity to be actively anti-racist and work for equality is before us. We are called to respond, to improve life as we know it today, and leave the world always in a better state than which we found it.
As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right,” and that time is now. We can all begin by treating people with dignity, courtesy, and respect. Changing this street name to Buffalo Soldiers Road is a small step in the right direction.
The largest portion of CARES Act Funding (under ESSER) will almost entirely be used to replace some of the funding ISDs would have normally received (which are State funds) in a non-pandemic year. Texas is using ESSER as a piggy bank because state revenue (sales tax) has plunged due to COVID19 as have the the oil and gas taxes.
See Q & A #8 (page 11) on this TEA document:
Much like FEMA, 75% of additional costs due to Coronavirus expenses (which occurred between March 1 - May 20, 2020) can be reimbursed via CRF. However, there is a maximum reimbursement limit equal to $50,000 or $250 per low-income student (whichever amount is higher).
See Q & A #2 (page 12) on this TEA document:
The 5% is going to private schools and virtual education vendors. How much is 5% ? Let's assume a local ISD is expecting to recover $10M in CARES funding, 5% of this is $500,000.
Based on this guidance from the Texas Education Agency, the ISD hoping to recover $10M, must use $500K - of their CARES funding - to pay for services requested by private non-profit schools within district boundaries. If there are none, ISDs can spend 100% of ESSER funds. See TEA link above p9, Q31
Federal stimulus funding appropriated by Congress to help states and school districts deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic could find its way into the coffers of private schools and virtual education vendors.
Over the last few weeks, the White House, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies have released a significant amount of guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). For updated information, please visit Coronavirus.gov, CDC.gov/coronavirus, and USA.gov/coronavirus.
For education-related information, the Department has established a dedicated Coronavirus webpage (ed.gov/coronavirus), which includes resources for institutions of higher education and for K-12.
16 March 2020 | Governor’s Office Clears Path for Governmental Bodies to Meet Telephonically or by Videoconferencing During Coronavirus Disaster
Governor Abbott’s office today approved a request by the Office of the Attorney General to temporarily suspend a limited number of open meeting laws in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disaster. This action will allow governmental bodies to conduct meetings by telephone or video conference to advance the public health goal of limiting face-to-face meetings (also called “social distancing”) to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Importantly, however, this action does not suspend requirements that governmental bodies conduct meetings in a transparent and accessible manner. Specifically, governmental bodies are still be required to do the following:
Read the Attorney General's notification:
Our students are out for extended periods of time due to COVID-19 precautionary measures. While these efforts go a very long way to protect our communities, our students and teachers need the same protections applied to accountability.
Whether it's poverty or lack of resources, many communities along the border (and across Texas) do not have access to wifi and do not possess digital devices necessary for online learning. This means our students whose promotion, retention, and graduation is based on test scores are at great risk.
Our nation, state, and cities across the U.S. have declared emergency. Holding our students and teachers responsible for continued learning in the current situation is irresponsible and unnecessary.
16 March 2020 | Governor Abbott Waives STAAR Testing Requirements
13 March - The waivers between the Texas Department of Agriculture and the their U.S. counterparts allowing federal reimbursement for non-school based food service should be in place by Monday, 16 March 2020 - (i.e., your curbside food service).
13 March | Letter from USDA
You're Invited to the TXSBOE Public Hearing on African American Studies!
The Texas State Board of Education is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the adoption of an African American Studies course on November 13th - Click here to review the agenda. AAS will be the second addition to the Texas Ethnic Studies course catalog. Click here to review the course and submit your public comment.
Sign Up to testify here.
The Texas Education Agency’s “Texas Resource Review” (TRR), formerly known as the Instructional Materials Quality Review (IMQR), has received a great deal of criticism, and rightfully so. Here’s why:
Here is some critical information that taxpayers should know:
5. More Stars = Better Quality. The issue then becomes the definition of quality. A textbook that received a high score (or more stars) is considered “high-quality.” However, Texas students have a wide range of needs. For example, a Dual Language academy may not find textbooks that do not support Language Learners or Biliteracy as high quality. Will the Board of Trustees at your ISD purchase books and technology which are best for their community? Or will they purchase what TEA says is good stuff?
6. The Law. “The commissioner by rule shall establish the procedure by which a publisher may submit instructional materials for inclusion in the web portal.”
see: Texas Education Code Sec. 31.081 https://texas.public.law/statutes/tex._educ._code_section_31.081
The web portal is the TRR (or the IMQE). The intent behind the law was to have a review of Open Educational Resources (OERs), which are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.
However, the ambiguity in the statute and the lack of oversight of TEA has resulted in this:
"At the request of a single member of the Texas State Board of Education or 10% of ISD’s, a publisher must submit their materials to the Quality Review."
Please note that in no place in Texas statute does a single member of an elected body have this kind of power. Many of the TXSBOE Members stood against this TEA Rule. However, Commissioner Morath has the final say.
The Texas State Board of Education nor the Texas Education Agency determines the best method to teach. Equally, neither should the TEA or the TXSBOE rank or score textbooks and technology.
It seems that TEA is placing itself on a path to accomplish what C-Scope could not.
Texas celebrates its 25-year relationship with charters... still no democracy or public accountability in sight.
If there is anyone still doubting that charter operators in Texas (and across the nation) receive every economic and political advantage, please take a moment to watch the 14 June 2019, Public Hearings at the Texas State Board of Education. Plan for several hours of your day to watch the hearings in their entirety (click here). Or, you can watch the condensed version below:
"I have six pages of questions for you." Here are the Teacher's Notes: (click here for the 6-page PDF)
Today, the Texas Education Agency is asking for public input on the Generation 25 Charter Application:
"The commissioner, in conjunction with staff in the Division of Charter School Administration, is in the final phase of preparing for the release of the Generation Twenty-Five open-enrollment charter application this fall. In the past, some of you have provided input regarding the content of the charter application and/or the commissioner’s charter authorization process. Our office welcomes any input that you may have to help strengthen the charter application process as we incorporate statutory changes and other edits to this iteration of the application.
Should you need to reference last year’s application, the Generation Twenty-Four charter application is still available on the TEA website for reference. If you would like to provide input into the Generation Twenty-Five charter application process, please submit any suggested edits and/or recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, September 4, 2019."
In January 2019, the Texas State Board of Education passed policy intending to require public hearings on Charter Contact Amendments and Expansions, which is how existing charters multiply.
TXSBOE policy intends to gather public input on charter expansions
However, the Texas Legislature decided that a website that exists in obscurity is sufficient. Now taxpayers are told where their public education dollars are being siphoned to online rather than by surprise when taxpayer-funded buildings go up (without a bond vote like ISDs perform, by law). Did you know that when a charter defaults on their building loans, you pay the debt - and the charter keeps the building?
My office continues to work on making these applicants follow the law, and the applications equitable to the lawful and righteous efforts which ISD's must perform and provide effective educational opportunities to all students. However, applicants regularly submit false information based on their cherry-picking and segregationist abilities. This ability results in ISD Superintendents forced to extensively communicate with TEA and attend public hearings to dispute the falsehoods told by charter applicants. More often than not, to no avail.
a) New charter operators are approved solely by the TEA Commissioner of Education. The Texas State Board of Education may veto these annual approvals.
b) Charter Amendments and Expansions are approved solely by the TEA Education Commissioner. In fewer than seven years, more than 400 expansions have been approved without public hearings, without taxpayer input, without community voices.
What is the IMQE? The Instructional Materials Quality Evaluation is TEA's expensive solution in search of a problem. The conflict? The IMQE is funded by taxpayer dollars which should be going to ISD's - so our local educators can determine which instructional materials are best for our children.
Reason #1: Fiduciary duty
As elected officials, we have a fiduciary duty to ensure that the state is spending Texas taxpayer dollars in a manner that provides the best value to the state. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has paid Safal Partners $3.26M for a one-year contract ending in August 2019. Safal subcontracted EdReports to produce quality evaluations or reviews. EdReports has never reviewed Texas materials, they have always only worked on Common Core.
As elected officials, we also have a duty to invest taxpayers’ dollars in doing what is right for students, not in something no one really wants.
The IMQE is also referred to as the "Portal" is NOT something school districts want, as evidenced by the struggle TEA had in getting districts to participate in the pilot. Only 30 of 1,023 ISD's are participating in the IMQE Pilot.
On November 13, 2018, the Urban Curriculum Council, representing 13 of the state’s largest districts sent a letter opposing this project. Three points of that letter:
Each community has its own set of unique needs. The definition of High Quality in El Paso may not match the definition of High Quality in Lufkin.
Reason #2: Using Common Core (EdReports and LA Believes) to review Texas instructional materials
It’s illegal for Texas to adopt the Common Core standards and it’s illegal for Texas schools to teach the Common Core standards. Safal’s contract states that existing EdReports’ reviews (which are exclusively Common Core) will be used on the reviews of Texas instructional materials.
Page 25 of 229 of TEA’s contract with Safal includes an "Updated Statement of Work" (revised as of July 3, 2018), which reiterates Safal’s proposal:
Teacher review teams will use existing EdReports reviews to identify which evidence applies to the Texas rubric.
*Review the contract here: TEA Contract #3854, SAFAL Partners
It is illegal for Texas schools to teach the Common Core. Nevertheless, the TEA awarded this contract for quality reviews to an entity that told us they will use portions of its EdReports and Louisiana Believes’ existing reviews of Common Core materials for the Texas reviews.
EdReports and Louisiana Believes’ reviews of Common Core materials are already available on public websites. EdReports will cut and paste from their existing reviews to produce reviews of Texas materials. Why are Texas taxpayers paying millions of dollars for something we could get for free?
Reason #3: Why is Texas following Louisiana’s model?
TEA has stated that they are modeling the IMQE process after Louisiana’s process.
Why would TEA want Texas to follow Louisiana's lead?
Georgina C. Pérez