Legislative Update

TAGT 2013 Policy Goals

For the benefit of the gifted students in Texas, the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT) focuses its advocacy on goals that will strengthen programs, services, and funding for gifted and talented education. The goals must address the current statewide decisions affecting education, in general, and especially those that impact gifted and talented education. TAGT advocacy will focus on timely issues such as the impact of the 82nd Texas Legislature cuts to public education funding and the upcoming full implementation of the new STAAR accountability program.

Restore State Funding to Public Education
The 82nd Texas Legislature reduced public education spending by $5 billion, including discretionary funds. Restoring the funding to public education is critical to school districts. Without funding, many programs, including those serving gifted and talented students, are likely to be scaled back or eliminated. Efforts to tap the Rainy Day Fund and proposals that would raise state revenue are issues that will receive TAGT’s full consideration.

Protect the G/T Weight/Allotment (Funding dedicated for gifted education)
In the last legislative session, lawmakers considered a school finance bill that would have eliminated all special allotments, including the G/T weight. Such a proposal may be considered again next session. TAGT must continue to advocate for the preservation of the funding specifically dedicated to gifted education for G/T services to remain viable in public schools.

Seek Campus Distinction Designation
The new STAAR accountability system will be fully implemented this year. Like TAKS, STAAR will grade campuses based on standard test scores in the core subject areas. Unlike TAKS, STAAR has a component to recognize campuses beyond standard test by allowing campuses to earn a distinction in five categories:

  • 21st Century Workforce Development 
  • Physical Fitness 
  • Fine Arts 
  • Second Language Acquisition Programs 
  • Academic Achievement in any of the four foundation curricular areas

Gifted and talented education may gain more relevancy and stature under the campus distinction component of the STAAR program by contributing to campuses earning distinctions, particularly in the categories of 21st Century Workforce Development and Fine Arts.

In addition to these five categories, the Commissioner may award a distinction to a campus with a significant number of students below grade nine who perform satisfactorily on an end-of-course (EOC) exam. Many gifted students across Texas are taking high school courses in the seventh and eighth grades that would help a campus achieve this recognition.

STAAR seeks to change some districts’ narrow focus on standardized test scores and recognize those who provide a rigorous education for gifted students. STAAR could incentivize districts to improve gifted services and to provide programs that are more robust. TAGT urges its members to work at the district and campus levels to ensure that gifted services are included in conversations about the new accountability system. As the criteria for earning distinctions have not been set by, TAGT and its members can play a role in shaping that policy.

Encourage TEA to Collect and Disaggregate Data about Gifted Education Programs and Services
TAGT believes the Texas Education Agency must gather data in a simple and straightforward manner about the gifted and talented programs and services school districts offer. This is not to evaluate or rank school districts, but to provide data about the services offered as part of districts’ gifted programming. This will create greater transparency for taxpayers and for parents who need the information to make informed decisions about their children’s education.

National News

The National Association for Gifted Children has helped craft a major new piece of legislation, sponsored in the House by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-California) and Rep. Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) in the Senate by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).  This bipartisan bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide federal leadership in meeting the needs of gifted and high-ability students.  To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers (TALENT) Act, which replaces the Javits Act, has four key emphases:

  • Changes to Assessment and Accountability Systems
  • Emphasis on Classroom Practice
  • Focus on Underserved Populations
  • Emphasis on Research and Dissemination

You can read a more detailed description of the legislation at NAGC.

Texas Senate and Texas House
Write, e-mail or tweet your state senator and state representative.  Let them know that you support gifted education and advanced academic programs, and the restoration funding for public education.  See the TAGT Policy Goals at the end of this document.

How to Contact Your Representatives
E-Mail address: first.last@house.state.tx.us or first.last@senate.state.tx.us

Mailing address:
The Honorable____________
Texas House of Representatives
P.O Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768-2910

The Honorable____________
Texas Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78711-2068

If you have the time and opportunity, you can try to set up a visit with your legislators when they are back in your home district or meet with office staff members. You can also set up an appointment if you are in Austin. It is important to make yourself and your opinion known!

Key Legislators to Contact  (* = Republican)

Senate Education Committee
*Dan Patrick, Chair (Houston) dan.patrick@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0107; Twitter: @DanPatrick
Eddie Lucio Jr., Vice-Chair (Brownsville) eddie.lucio@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0127; Twitter: @SenatorLucio
*Donna Campbell (New Braunfels) donna.campbell@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0125; Twitter: @DonnaCampbellTX
*Robert Duncan (Lubbock) robert.duncan@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0128; Twitter: @senatorduncan
*Ken Paxton (McKinney) ken.paxton@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0108; Twitter: @RepKenPaxton
*Kel Seliger (Amarillo) kel.seliger@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0131; Twitter: @kseliger
*Larry Taylor (Friendswood) larry.taylor@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0111; Twitter: @Taylor4Senate
Leticia Van De Putte (San Antonio) leticia.vandeputte@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0126; Twitter: @leticiavdp
Royce West (Dallas) royce.west@sentate.xtate.tx.us; 512-463-0123; Twitter: @SenRoyceWest

House Public Education Committee
*Jimmie Don Aycock (Killeen), Chair jimmie.aycock@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0684
Alma Allen (Houston), Vice-Chair alma.allen@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0744
*John Davis (Houston)  john.davis@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0734
Joe Deshotel (Beaumont)  joe.deshotel@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0662; Twitter: @RepJoeDeshotel
Harold Dutton (Houston)  harold.dutton@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0510
*Marsha Farney (Georgetown) marsha.farney@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0309; Twitter: @DrMarshaFarney
*Dan Huberty (Humble)  dan.huberty@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0520; Twitter: @DanHuberty
*Ken King (Canadian)  ken.king@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0736; Twitter: @KingforTexas
*Bennett Ratliff (Coppell)  bennett.ratliff@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0470; Twitter: @BennettRatliff
Justin Rodriguez (San Antonio) justin.rodriguez@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0669; Twitter: @RepJRod
Mike Villarreal (San Antonio) mikevillarreal@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0532; Twitter: @MikeVillarreal

 Senate Higher Education Committee
*Kel Seliger, Chair (Amarillo) kel.seliger@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0131; Twitter: @kseliger
Kirk Watson, Vice-Chair (Austin) kirk.watson@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0114; Twitter: @KirkPWatson
*Brian Birdwell (Granbury) brian.birdwell@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0122; Twitter: @SenatorBirdwell
*Robert Duncan (Lubbock) robert.duncan@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0128; Twitter: @senatorduncan
*Dan Patrick (Houston) dan.patrick@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0107; Twitter: @DanPatrick
Royce West (Dallas) royce.west@sentate.xtate.tx.us; 512-463-0123; Twitter: @SenRoyceWest
Judith Zaffirini (Laredo) judith.zaffirini@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0121; Twitter: @JudithZaffirini

House Higher Education Committee
*Dan Branch, Chair (Dallas) dan.branch@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0367; Twitter: @texansfordan
*Diane Patrick, Vice-Chair (Arlington) diane.patrick@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0624
Roberto Alonzo (Dallas) roberto.alonzo@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0408
*Travis Clardy (Nacogdoches) travis.clardy@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0592; Twitter: @travisfortexas
*Drew Darby (San Angelo) drew.darby@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0331
Donna Howard (Austin) donna.howard@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0631; Twitter: @DonnaHowardTX
Armando Martinez (Weslaco) armando.martinez@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0530; Twitter: @amtz059
*Jim Murphy (Houston) jim.murhpy@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0514; Twitter: @JimMurphy133
*John Raney (College Station) john.raney@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0470; Twitter: @ElectJohnRaney

State Board of Education: sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us; 512-463-9007
Martha Dominguez (El Paso) martha.dominguez@tea.state.tx.us; 915-592-9083
Ruben Cortez Jr. (Brownsville) ruben.cortez@tea.state.tx.us; 956-639-9171
Marisa B. Perez  (San Antonio) marisa.perez@tea.state.tx.us; 210-317-4651
Lawrence Allen (Fresno) lawrence.allen@tea.state.tx.us; 713-203-1355
*Ken Mercer (San Antonio) ken.mercer@tea.state.tx.us; n/a
*Donna Bahorich (Houston) donna.bahorich@tea.state.tx.us; 832-303-9091
*David Bradley (Beaumont) david.bradley@tea.state.tx.us; 409-835-3808
*Barbara Cargill), Chair (The Woodlands) barbara.cargill@tea.state.tx.us; n/a
*Thomas Ratliff, Vice-Chair (Mount Pleasant) Thomas@thomasratliff.com; 903-717-1190
*Tom Maynard (Florence) tom.maynard@tea.state.tx.us; 512-763-2801 or 512-532-9517
*Pat Hardy (Fort Worth) patricia.hardy@tea.state.tx.us; 817-598-2968
*Geraldine “Tincy” Miller (Dallas) gtince@aol.com; 972-419-4000
*Mavis Knight, Secretary (Dallas) mavis.knight@tea.state.tx.us; 214-333-9575
*Sue Melton (Waco) smelton51@gmail.com; 254-749-0415
*Marty Rowley (Amarillo) martyforeducation@gmail.com; 806-303-6278

NOTE: If any of these e-mail addresses do not function, you can contact all State Board of Education members at sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us or at 512.463.9007 (TEA/SBOE office)