A daily round-up of education news and views for the Lone Star State
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 Principal News
 A daily round-up of education news and views for the Lone Star State To add a recipient please click here
Wednesday, 20th October 2021





New Report: Social and Emotional Learning is Critical to Student Well-Being
We surveyed educators, administrators, and parents to better understand their opinions about the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL), the effects of COVID-19 on children’s wellbeing, and how schools can support kids as they return for the 2021-22 school year. Here’s what we learned.
Read the report.





Texas voters to decide in 2022 on property tax drop

Texas voters will decide next year whether homeowners will get a trim in their property tax bills after lawmakers rammed through a proposed constitutional amendment through both chambers shortly after it was first proposed Monday evening. The measure would raise the state’s homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 for school district property taxes, netting the average homeowner about $176 in savings on their annual property tax bill, according to Houston Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt, the proposal’s author. With the two chambers unable to reach an agreement on the Senate’s priority bill to reduce property tax rates, Texas lawmakers started from scratch on new legislation intended to lower homeowners’ property tax bills through an expansion of school district homestead exemptions. In the span of less than an hour, the bill sailed through a key committee and wound up back on the Senate floor where it passed unanimously — all before the text of the legislation became publicly available and without an opportunity for public comment. The proposal will cost the state more than $600m annually if voters approve it next May. 

The Texas Tribune 




Biden signs order to improve education for Black U.S. students

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order establishing two commissions within the Department of Education to improve education for Black students. One of the panels has been assigned to raise awareness around challenges for Black students and increase Black children's access to high-quality early childhood programs, among other projects, while the other will make recommendations to the president about educational equity and economic opportunity for the Black community. School districts with high concentrations of Black students are much more likely to be underfunded than districts where a majority of students are white, and face much wider funding gaps, with an average deficit of more than $5,000 per student, the White House said. It added that 26% of Black Americans aged 25 and above have attained a bachelor's degree, while the national average is 36%.





Eanes Superintendent to retire in 2023

Earnes ISD Superintendent Tom Leonard says he plans to retire in January 2023, giving the district ample time to search for his replacement. The goal is to hire a new superintendent to start next summer and take the reins next school year, and for Mr. Leonard to stay on into the fall as an advisor to help with a smooth transition. Mr. Leonard was hired in spring 2014 and most recently has overseen the district through a tumultuous year and a half, from the start of the pandemic to the launch of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiative. 

Community Impact  Austin American-Statesman 


Frisco ISD extends temporary online learning options

Frisco ISD has extended its temporary online learning option through the end of the fall semester. Students who are new to FISD may sign up for virtual learning at the time of enrollment through the new-student registration process. District staff will re-evaluate and extend the program as necessary until a COVID-19 vaccine is available for children under age 12. Once a vaccine is widely available for that age group, the district will end the virtual learning option. There will not be an online option for students in grades seven through 12 because a vaccine is “strongly encouraged” for everyone above the age of 12, the district wrote in an email to parents.

Community Impact 


Lewisville ISD approves architect for proposed bus yard

The Lewisville ISD board of trustees named an architect yesterday for its plans to convert undeveloped, district-owned land near Vickery Elementary in Flower Mound into a bus yard and maintenance facility. The proposed facility is an alternative use should the Flower Mound Town Council reject a land-use change that paves the way for the district to sell the land to a housing developer. The board voted unanimously to tab Huckabee, a Texas-based architecture firm with an office in Plano, to assist the district in assessing the feasibility, planning and design of a needed bus yard. The firm previously worked with the district to develop the Hebron High School Multipurpose and Indoor Athletic Center and boasts more than 50 projects involving Texas public school districts.

Community Impact 




States ask Biden, Garland to stop 'criminalizing' speech at school board meetings

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, along with 16 other state attorneys general, penned a letter to President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking them to cease what they describe as efforts to intimidate parents into silence at school board meetings. A memorandum issued by Garland, which was released shortly after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to Mr. Biden claiming some clashes between school boards and parents may amount to "domestic terrorism," calls for the FBI to take the lead on a task force to address threats against school officials, including creating a centralized way to report such threats. The 17 chief law enforcement officers from each state argued that the memo is "based upon a flawed premise" and violates "First Amendment rights of parents to address school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff on educational matters by seeking to criminalize lawful dissent and intimidate parents into silence."

Fox News 




Ed. Dept. details plan to address students' mental health

The Biden administration has released a plan to address rising mental health concerns among students in schools across the country. The announcement came as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association put out a statement warning of a "mental health state of emergency" for children and adolescents. Between March and October 2020, mental health emergency visits increased 24% for children aged 5-11, and 31% for kids aged 12-17. There was also a more than 50% spike in visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 in early 2021, compared to the same period in 2019. The U.S. Department of Education's new proposals, titled Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health, sets out seven critical areas of difficulty educators and care providers may experience when it comes to addressing the mental health of young people and includes a corresponding seven-point list of recommendations aimed at helping schools and providers improve the emotional well-being of students and children. It points to school districts and programs across the country - in states such as New Jersey, California, Oregon and Vermont - that have already implemented successful techniques for improving students' mental health. Examples include a peer based initiative for college students in California, youth advisory councils funded by the state legislature in Oregon and a program to support students of military families started by the Military Child Education Coalition.

CNN  U.S. Department of Education  Education Week 




Report offers pathways to building culturally-affirming schools

Recruiting a diverse staff and building a “family-like” school culture are among the key action steps more than 100 Black educators recommend school leaders follow in a recent report released by Teach Plus and the Center for Black Educator Development. The paper presented the findings of focus groups conducted during the spring and summer of 2020, compiling the perspectives of 105 Black teachers from across 12 states. It recommends  that leaders provide opportunities for teachers of color to participate in mentorship programs and focus groups to debrief their experiences, especially in schools with majority-white faculty, where Black, Indigenous, Hispanic or Asian educators may be one of just a few colleagues who share their racial identity. The study comes at the same time as new analysis from Michigan State University, which found that Michigan's Black teacher workforce declined 48% between 2005 and 2015, far outpacing overall declines in the size of the state’s educator corps. Many students moved to suburban districts with largely white teaching workforces, but those districts didn’t pick up the slack by hiring more Black teachers, the study says. During the same period, the number of African Americans entering traditional teacher training programs also fell. Michigan’s urban school districts haven been hobbled by a lack of funding, said Pamela Pugh, an elected member of the Michigan Board of Education. Indeed, the study notes that increased student-teacher ratios in city districts — likely a result of underfunding — also helped shrink the state’s Black educator corps.

Chalkbeat  The 74 




Study finds correlation between SROs and higher disciplinary actions

Research detailed in a working paper from researchers at the University of Albany and RAND Corporation, published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, suggests school police don't prevent school shootings or gun violence in schools, and worsen rates of suspension, expulsion, arrests and police referrals for Black students, as well as chronic absenteeism rates for students with disabilities. While SROs seem to help with general safety by decreasing unarmed violent offenses like fights, researchers found they may instead marginally increase the chances of firearm-related incidents on school grounds. The study used national school-level data between 2014-2018 from the U.S. Department of Education.  

K-12 Dive 




Houston state Rep. Dan Huberty to retire

State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) announced Tuesday he will not seek another term to the Texas House, having represented House District 127 since 2011. During the 2019 legislative session, Mr. Huberty helped spearhead reforms to the state's school finance system, which included $6.5bn to improve public education in the state and pay teachers, plus $5.1bn to lower school district taxes. Huberty said Tuesday that his "interest in and passion for public education remains at my core" and said he believed that the school finance reform legislation from 2019 "will have a lasting impact for the school children of Texas for a long time to come."

Texas Tribune 

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