Some of you may have seen the posts in our last few newsletters about PTA Rally Day at the State Capitol.  Rally Day took place last Monday and was a success.  In Rockwall, our Council PTA President, Amy Fernandez, attended and sent the summary below.  Please consider taking action in the ways that Mrs. Fernandez suggests, or at least take a moment to learn more about the issues.

As of today (3/3/17) there are still resources posted to the Texas PTA website that explain a little more about some of these legislative issues.

An excerpt from the summary Mrs. Fernandez sent out to the PTA Presidents:

   Senator Bob Hall asked me to ask you to write to him with your opinions.  I’ll tell you exactly about what topics and how to reach him and Representative Holland at the bottom of this email… But first let me tell you the results of PTA Rally Day.
     I traveled to Austin this past Monday and participated in PTA Rally Day with 1600 other PTA parents, students, and school board trustees from across the state.  My time was well spent in Austin listening to and talking with our legislators!  If you can possibly attend Rally Day in February 2019, I highly recommend it!   The mission of PTA is advocacy; be that at our local schools, at the state level, and at the national level.  And take your teen children.  What a wonderful opportunity for them to experience government in action and up close!  Advocating in Austin allowed me to advocate for our children and to advocate for the legislative priorities of Rockwall ISD.
  • I spoke with Senator Hall for almost 45 minutes on Monday.  He listened to what I had to say about vouchers, powdered alcohol, school finance, A-F rating system, and the age of adult criminal responsibility.  Then he asked me questions about SHAC and the FitnessGram Pacer Test.  He said his job and desire is to do the will of his constituents. But he has to hear from us to know what that is.  FYI… Senator Hall is in favor of vouchers.  This was our only point of disagreement.  Rockwall ISD and PTA are opposed to vouchers.
  • I spoke to Representative Justin Holland’s Chief of Staff, Robert Paulsen, as Holland was in a meeting during our appointment time.  According to Paulsen, Holland is in agreement with all five points I mentioned.  He was unaware of powdered alcohol, the lack of restrictions to minors in TX, and its possible abuses.  I asked him to add powdered alcohol to the definition of “alcoholic substance” so that it can be properly restricted from those age 21 and under.
  • Representative Huberty, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Education, has proposed a plan to more adequately finance public schools.  He expects to file a bill by next week.
  • The House declared yesterday that they collectively oppose vouchers.  This comes 1 day after PTA Rally Day.  Did PTA influence this decision?  Maybe.  Great news for public schools!
  • The House will propose a bill today or tomorrow with recommended changes to the A-F rating system.  Domain IV will be combined with Domain III.  Attendance will not be the determining factor for if children in grades 3-8 are prepared for post secondary education.
  • The state budget is exceedingly tight this legislative session due to low gas/oil prices.  The Economic Stabilization Fund (aka Rainy Day Fund) is anticipated to grow to $12 billion by the end of the 85th legislative session.  The House is going to ask to use $4 or $5 billion for one-time projects such as road repairs so that more money can be put toward education.  The state needs to maintain $7 or $8 billion in the Rainy Day Fund in order to qualify for an optimal credit rating for bonds.
Here’s what Senator Bob Hall has asked of you…
Senator Hall wrote to all 40+ superintendents in his District back in January asking for their input on education because he has been appointed to the Senate Education Committee.  He heard back from Dr. Villarreal and only about a dozen other superintendents.  His expertise is not in education.  His professional career was in the military and as an engineer.  So he wants and needs your input!   He told me it’s his job to do the will of the people.  But he can’t support what we want if he doesn’t know what that is.  Please read the two attached letters.  Send him your opinions.  And write to Representative Justin Holland as well!
Topics to write to Senator Hall and Representative Holland about: 
1.  How should the A-F rating system be modified?  Be specific.
2.  What non-academic mandates are not contributing to education?
3.  What unfunded mandates should be removed?  Here’s a list of unfunded or underfunded mandates that cost Rockwall ISD.   https://www.tasb.org/Legislative/documents/170120Mandates.aspx
4.  What suggestions do you have for improving the Tx public school funding system?  The Texas Supreme Court ruled in May 2016 that the legislature needs to reform the school funding system from top to bottom.
5.  Should the legislature provide vouchers of $5000+ for students to attend private schools; schools that the state will not hold accountable?  Texas PTA, Rockwall ISD & Tx Association of School Boards all oppose vouchers.
Senator Bob Hall
email correspondence to his Legislative Director, Kathi Seay:  kathi.seay@senate.texas.gov
State Representative Justin Holland
email correspondence to Legislative Aide, Georgeanne Palmer:  Georgeanne.Palmer@house.texas.gov

Please write to them right away.  Your opinion matters!  Hearings are happening now in Austin.

Thank you for advocating for all of our children!
Amy Fernandez
President, Rockwall ISD Council of PTAs