About the Texas AFT Legislative Hotline

The Texas AFT Legislative Hotline is published by e-mail and to this site each business weekday (and some holidays and weekends when important news justifies a post) by the staff at the Texas American Federation of Teachers.

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The strong message of opposition to SB 1968—the bill to outlaw voluntary payroll deduction of most public employees’ organizational dues—seems to be getting through. There was no attempt to move the bill out of the House State Affairs Committee Friday, and … (read more…)

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SB 1968, the bill to ban voluntary payroll deduction of organization dues for nearly all public employees in Texas, ran into a serious obstacle at the state capitol on Thursday. That obstacle was a (read more…)

A partial budget agreement announced by state House and Senate negotiators Wednesday afternoon reflected misplaced priorities on the biggest items at issue, but there was one bright spot.
First, the bad news:  The House appeared to accept the Senate’s position on formula aid for school districts, which was well short of the overall increase proposed by the House … (read more…)

Stop the State from Messing with Your Paycheck: Urge Lawmakers to Oppose SB 1968
Some state politicians in Austin want to take away the freedom of teachers, school support personnel, and nearly all state and local public employees to make voluntary payments from their earnings, via safe and secure payroll dues deduction, to the employee organizations of their … (read more…)

The state Senate voted 20 to 11 on May 7 to ban voluntary payroll deduction of dues by most public employees, including all those employed by school districts. Now the bill is in the House State Affairs Committee. Members of that committee need to hear from you—NOW–in opposition to … (read more…)

This session’s “virtual voucher” bill, SB 894 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), has yet to come up for a vote in the Texas Senate. The bill would provide taxpayer funding for privately operated online schools with minimal accountability or quality assurance.
Also not voted on Tuesday was SB 1900 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), which would entitle … (read more…)

Two bad education-policy bills backed by big money met with stout resistance from witnesses in a House Public Education Committee hearing at the state capitol on Tuesday.  SB 14 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) concerns a so-called “parent trigger” for control of public schools by alternate managers, such as charter-management companies. The second controversial bill, SB 1241—also … (read more…)

The Texas House Public Education Committee on Tuesday is planning to hear SB 14, a bill by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) that would speed up the timeline for a parent petition triggering alternative management of a campus. In California the prototype for this bill has been the vehicle for well-funded efforts by outside interests to get parent signatures on petitions for charter takeover … (read more…)

The much-criticized Pearson testing company has had sole responsibility for running the state testing system (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR) over the past five years at a price to taxpayers in excess of $450 million. Monday the Texas Education Agency announced that the British-based firm will lose more than 80 percent of the STAAR contract over the next four … (read more…)

SB 894, the bill by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) to fund full-time online instruction at state expense for students who never have to set foot in a public school, will not be voted on in the Texas Senate Tuesday. The bill was on Monday’s agenda but was not brought up for a vote. Part of the reason, we suspect, is the grass-roots opposition expressed in many e-mails and calls by folks like … (read more…)

An expensive new entitlement program for charter schools is back on the calendar for possible consideration Tuesday. SB 1900 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) would entitle charter schools to $427 million in facilities funding over the next two years.
Under the legislative compromise that created charter schools in Texas in 1995, they have never been eligible … (read more…)

It’s hard to know what is really happening in budget negotiations between the Texas House and Texas Senate, because all the meaningful action is occurring behind closed doors. Judging by the out-front posturing, however, education funding is not one of the major issues occupying the attention of the negotiators.
The focus, by all accounts, is on whose version of tax … (read more…)

The Texas House gave final approval Friday, May 15, to a bill proposing a proven, effective strategy for school improvement—one that builds up the services and supports students need in and out of school to be successful academically. That is the community-school model, and the bipartisan bill to make it the preferred option for turnaround of struggling schools is HB 1891 by Rep. Eddie … (read more…)

The Texas House on Friday also approved on third reading and sent to the Senate HB 2804 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), containing a mandate to switch the state’s accountability ratings to an A-F scheme effective September 2017. The real debate on this proposal occurred Thursday night as Democrats and Republicans alike warned that the A-F grading system will not spur achievement gains but … (read more…)

SB 894 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), the bill to provide full-time online instruction at public expense for home-schooled and private-school students–with minimal public accountability and minimal quality assurance–was on the calendar Friday but was never brought up for a vote.
The bill has no House counterpart, and deadlines are looming for Senate bills to … (read more…)

By a margin of 75 to 69, proponents of an A-F rating system that would stigmatize rather than improve struggling schools prevailed on a preliminary vote in the Texas House Thursday night. Other states with A-F rating schemes have had second thoughts as problems with the system emerged. If A-F ratings make it all the way through to passage this session, Texas lawmakers may get a chance to … (read more…)

HB 1759, the school-finance bill by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), was withdrawn from consideration on the House floor by its author Thursday afternoon. Rep. Aycock said there was no chance the bill would pass in the Senate, which has adopted a “wait and see” approach to school finance pending the outcome of the Texas Supreme Court case that will decide what and how much the legislature … (read more…)

A bill to make it easier for outside interests to hijack a school district through the home-rule petition process went down to well-deserved defeat today in the Texas House. HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) would have encouraged the use of a petition by 5 percent of the voters in a school district to force the drafting of a home-rule plan. Under this bill, the petition instigator would … (read more…)

SB 894 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) is the “virtual voucher” bill that would provide big taxpayer subsidies for private purveyors of full-time, online instruction with minimal public accountability—and minimal quality assurance. The bill would make home-schooled children and students in private schools eligible for state-funded, full-time enrollment in a “virtual school.” SB 894 … (read more…)

An attempt to overhaul the state system of school finance is expected on the floor of the Texas House on Thursday, May 14.  HB 1759 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) would use $3 billion in the House version of the proposed 2016-2017 state budget to boost funding for school districts. But advocates of equity see the bill as a missed opportunity to improve fairness in the distribution of … (read more…)

Also on the Thursday House agenda is a constitutional amendment by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) that could boost wages for many lower-paid employees in Texas, including school personnel. The measure, HJR 26, would set a new floor of $10.10 an hour for Texas workers, up from the current minimum hourly wage of $7.25. Passage of the constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds … (read more…)

With the governor’s signature on Monday, May 11, a bill allowing students to bypass up to two out of five state end-of-course exams and still graduate became law, effective immediately. Under SB 149 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), a student who fails to pass one or two end-of-course exams can graduate by passing the courses in those subjects and demonstrating proficiency in other ways. … (read more…)

On Wednesday, May 13, the Texas Senate may vote on a bill to funnel taxpayer dollars to private purveyors of full-time online instruction. SB 894 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would make home-schooled children and students in private schools eligible for full-time online instruction at state expense.
SB 894 removes limits on the number of courses students can … (read more…)

The state’s top financial officer, the comptroller of public accounts, has thrown some cold water on the feverish tax-cutting in progress at the state capitol. In a letter to the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House last week, Comptroller Glenn Hegar wrote:
As comptroller, I want to emphasize that in addition to tax … (read more…)

Two more major pieces of legislation dismantling safeguards of educational quality and fostering the takeover of public education by private operators were passed in the state Senate Monday. SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would enable and encouraging school districts to opt out of compliance with important Education Code safeguards of educational quality such as class-size … (read more…)

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