Capitol Inside, nationally recognized for its political reporting, publishes the Texas Lobby Power Rankings at the beginning of each legislative session. Publisher Mike Hailey has once again named TCTA as the top teacher lobby group in the state for 2021.
TCTA has achieved this honor for the past eight sessions — that’s 16 years — reflecting the hard work of our legislative staff, leaders and membership. Hailey talks to legislators, legislative staffers and other lobbyists to arrive at the rankings.
TCTA’s lobby team includes:
Paige Williams, director of legislation. Paige joined TCTA in 2008. Prior to TCTA, she clerked at the Court of Criminal Appeals and worked at the Travis County District Attorney's office and the Texas Association of School Boards. She also has extensive experience at the Capitol as a legislative aide. She has a law degree from UT-Austin.
Jeri Stone, executive director. In addition to heading the entire TCTA staff, Jeri is an integral part of the TCTA lobby team. She has been with TCTA since 1978, and has a law degree from UT-Austin.
Lonnie Hollingsworth Jr., general counsel. Lonnie has been with TCTA since 1986 and has become a fixture at the Capitol during that time. He is well-regarded for his expertise in school finance and student discipline issues. He has a law degree from UT-Austin.
Ann Fickel, associate executive director. Ann began her career as an aide for three sessions at the Capitol before joining TCTA as a member of the lobby team in 1990. She has a master's degree in public affairs from the LBJ School at UT-Austin, and specializes in TRS issues.
Holly Eaton, director of professional development and advocacy. Holly previously worked as an attorney in Washington, DC, before returning to Texas to pursue a career in education law. She made her way to TCTA in 1996, and has become an expert on teacher and classroom issues ranging from certification to special education. She has a law degree from UT-Austin.
Pamela McPeters, public affairs coordinator. Pamela, a veteran around the Capitol for more than two decades, joined TCTA in 2020. In addition to her work for legislators and committees, she was previously the VP of Public Affairs at TexProtects, where she led efforts to improve children's health, safety and well-being through public policy. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Learning and Development from UT-Austin.
TCTA remains involved post-session during the implementation of new laws with boards and state agencies, such as the Texas Education Agency, State Board of Education, State Board for Educator Certification and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
TCTA members are represented by the foremost independent lobbying company in Washington, D.C. TCTA has contracted with Van Scoyoc Associates, a full-service federal government affairs firm, since 2011.
Van Scoyoc Associates is a full-service federal government affairs firm and the foremost independent lobbying company in Washington, D.C.
The firm is “consciously bipartisan,” and the staff — which numbers 80-plus — is a roughly even split of Republicans and Democrats. TCTA is in regular contact with a team of Van Scoyoc staff members responsible for advocating for TCTA members’ interests and keeping TCTA up to date on education issues at the federal level.
Many of the laws that have the most impact on the day-to-day lives of Texas classroom professionals are made at the state level. The Texas Legislature determines the state minimum salary schedule for teachers and passes legislation that affects just about every aspect of public education: student testing, class sizes and teacher evaluations to name a few.
However, many major laws affecting teachers and students are federal. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the set of laws by which all eligible students with disabilities must be educated, covers everything from individualized education plans to discipline. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) are two federal laws that reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for most Texas school employees.
Federal education grant programs also touch the daily lives of Texas teachers. The Teacher Incentive Fund, for example, is a grant program that funds local school district performance-based compensation systems for teachers.
If it relates to education, our federal lobby team at Van Scoyoc has their eyes and ears on it. They attend meetings and hearings in D.C. and report back to us with the details and often the inside scoop.
They also are our “boots on the ground” at the U.S. Capitol, where they help us lobby on a variety of issues, such as changes to IDEA, the repeal of the WEP and GPO, federal funding issues, and more.