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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Hotlines from August 20, 2010 to present may be found on the main site through the month links on the right navigation bar, or by using the search field.

Hotlines before that day may be found here.

 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding officer of the Texas Senate, announced his appointments Friday to the 14 Senate committees of the 2015 legislative session. The roster of the Senate Education Committee is as follows:

Larry Taylor, chair (Republican of Friendswood)
Eddie Lucio, Jr., vice chair (Democrat of Brownsville)
Paul Bettencourt (Republican of Houston)
Donna Campbell (Republican of … (read more…)

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In order to get out from under ill-conceived federal mandates and sanctions in the No Child Left Behind Act, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams obtained a conditional waiver in 2013 requiring Texas to develop new, test-driven teacher evaluations. But he and his Texas Education Agency lack the legal authority to impose the new model on school districts, which have the power under state law … (read more…)

When state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Republican of Killeen, talks about education issues, people around the state capitol tend to pay careful attention. That’s because Aycock is likely to continue in the 2015 legislative session as chair of the House Public Education Committee. (Speaker Joe Straus has not yet announced his committee appointments.)

Hence Rep. Aycock caused a bit of commotion … (read more…)

Your Second Chance to Tell Lawmakers Retired and Active School Employees Need More State Funding for Health Care Now!   Send your letter now!

Every year, active and retired educators are paying ever greater health-care costs yet get declining benefits. Premiums paid by active … (read more…)

Every year, active and retired educators are paying ever greater health-care costs yet get declining benefits. Premiums paid by active school employees for their major statewide plan, TRS-ActiveCare, have nearly quadrupled over the last 12 years while benefits have been cut almost every year. Local health plans offered by school districts have followed the same pattern. Over … (read more…)

Last year a Houston hedge-fund billionaire named John Arnold and other, undisclosed individuals decided they knew what was best for Dallas ISD, so they funded a petition forcing creation of a “home rule” charter commission to propose changes in district policy and governance. Their goal was to transform all of Dallas ISD into a charter school district that would not have to meet many state … (read more…)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Republican majority caucus in the Texas Senate carried out a significant power grab today, changing Senate rules to reduce the number of votes needed to pass controversial legislation. Until today, it generally has required 21 votes to bring a bill up for consideration on the Senate floor. Under today’s rule change, it will take only 19. By sheer coincidence, … (read more…)

On education issues, we are not sure how much difference there will be between Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick when it comes right down to it. But in their inaugural addresses after being sworn in on the front steps of the state capitol today, their rhetoric sounded different.

Lt. Gov. Patrick made an ardent appeal for private-school vouchers (“school choice,” in his lexicon) as … (read more…)

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has an urgent message for you–we have our best chance in years to correct the test obsession fostered by the No Child Left Behind Act, and we should seize the moment.

As the U.S. Senate committee with jurisdiction over education policy begins hearings this week on how to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently … (read more…)

A memorial service for the late Texas AFT President Linda Bridges, who died on January 13, will be held in Corpus Christi on Thursday, January 22, at 4:30 pm at the Communications Workers of America Hall, 1210 South Staples Street, Corpus Christi, Texas 78404. … (read more…)

On January 15 the Texas House released a first draft of the state budget that falls short of even a bare-bones level of funding that would maintain current state services. It would take about $102 billion in general revenue to maintain current services, and the initial House proposal for 2016-2017 comes in about $3 billion below that, at $98.8 billion. For public education, the bill purportedly … (read more…)

On this holiday in honor of the great civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which this year comes as we head deeper into what may well be an extremely difficult state legislative session, we would like to share with you an apposite quotation from Dr. King:

Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency asks the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular? … (read more…)

Members of the Texas House of Representatives observed a moment of silence on the House floor today in honor of Texas AFT President Linda Bridges, who passed away Tuesday. The official observance this morning came at the request of two state representatives, Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio). Both spoke in warm appreciation of President Bridges’ … (read more…)

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Republican of San Antonio, was easily re-elected on the first day of the 84th regular legislative session Tuesday, winning a fourth term at the helm of the House with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 127 to 19. In the wake of that triumph, Straus forcefully made the case for adhering to what he termed “a fair process that points us toward common ground” … (read more…)

The official state estimate of available general-purpose revenue for the 2016-2017 budget came in higher than many had expected today, opening the way to significant improvements in funding for education and other basic services—if lawmakers have the will to do it.

The state comptroller of public accounts by law makes the official biennial revenue estimate that determines how much legislators … (read more…)

Attorney General Greg Abbott campaigned for governor last year as an advocate of “genuine local control” over educational decision-making. In ringing tones, Abbott declared, ”I will return control of our schools to their districts and the communities they serve.”

That was then. Now, just a few months later, Abbott as governor-elect is attacking the philosophy of local control that … (read more…)

We tuned in to Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick’s press conference this week to hear what he would have to say about his agenda for public education.  His priorities include:

–Private-school vouchers—or, as he prefers to say, “school choice.”

–Accountability ratings for campuses using letter grades from A to F.

–New reading programs to help students read on grade level by fourth … (read more…)

The Education Week Research Center’s 2015 “Quality Counts” report puts Texas 49th in the nation for its level of school spending per pupil. The ranking is based on an apples-to-apples comparison among the states that takes regional cost variations into account, so the abysmal ranking is no fluke. This low investment … (read more…)

Responding to a district court’s ruling last year that the state system of school funding violates the state constitution, the state of Texas (via the attorney general’s office over which Gov.-elect Greg Abbott still presides) this week has requested a schedule for appellate argument that would push final Texas Supreme Court action into 2016. If the request is granted, some lawmakers are sure … (read more…)

Sen. Donna Campbell, a San Antonio Republican, has pre-filed the first private-school voucher bill of the 2015 session, SB 276. Sen. Campbell timed the pre-filing of her bill to coincide with issuance of a pro-voucher report by a pro-voucher advocacy group in Austin. Her bill was greeted with a hard-hitting critique by the Coalition for Public Schools, in which Texas AFT and more than 30 other … (read more…)

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus today announced one of his first initiatives in the area of public education for the 2015 legislative session that starts January 13. Straus, a San Antonio Republican, said he wants to follow up on last session’s bill establishing multiple graduation pathways for Texas students by providing stipends to counselors who “receive training focused on the increasingly … (read more…)

Texas AFT’s endorsed candidates took strong leads today in special elections for a state Senate seat and a state House seat in San Antonio. In the Senate District 26 race to name a successor to Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Democrat of San Antonio, the leader going into the runoff is Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer. In the House District 123 race to replace Democratic state Rep. Mike … (read more…)

Thanks to the omnibus federal spending bill passed by Congress in December, there will be no funding in the 2015 federal budget for the “Race to the Top” grant competition, which the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama has used to push for unproven school reforms.  Though billed as a lever to reward states and districts for lifting up student achievement, Race to the Top … (read more…)

Teachers can usher in 2015 with a look back through the lens of Share My Lesson’s most popular lessons tied to news and events from 2014.

Here are some attention-getting examples:

The Hotline will take a break starting December 18. The next Hotline will be the one for January 5, 2015. Best wishes to all for the winter holiday break. … (read more…)

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