Our members have made clear that they have been disrespected for too long, and now it’s time for elected officials to Respect Us or Expect Us. Read our demands.
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Our Respect Agenda for the Texas Legislature
Solving the School Staffing Crisis & Making Schools Safe for Our Kids
What happens in our public schools affects us all, but it’s our kids who suffer most.
Up to 70% of Texas teachers say they’re thinking of leaving education, while other vital support staff positions go unfilled. Meanwhile, years of underfunding (and under-paying employees) are making our schools less safe, even as 90% of Texas school employees say they worry their school will be next for gun violence.
Texas school employees, parents, and Texans must raise our voices together to support an increase in public education funding and a statewide raise for Texas school employees.
Our union’s top priority is to fight for the additional resources our schools need to keep our students and school employees safe, healthy, and thriving.
It’s time for our state government to pay its fair share by increasing the basic allotment that funds our public schools, and we have the ability to do it with a $27 billion budget surplus. Only a substantial increase in the basic allotment will allow schools to attract and retain the well-trained, experienced teachers and school staff that all students deserve and provide safe schools for Texas children.
Bills to Watch: Our Respect Agenda at the Capitol
Bills are moving fast and furious in the 88th Legislature. See where potential pay raises, school funding increases, and other priorities stand on our tracking page.
Safe Schools for Our Children
We must keep our children, teachers, school nurses, & support staff safe through immediate and long-term measures.
- Manageable class sizes allow students to learn and teachers to teach. Elementary schools have class-size limits of 22:1. We need to institute class-size limits for middle and high school grades and enforce the laws we have. It is time to stop the flood of class-size waivers every year.
- Every school must have a mental health care professional and nurse and should meet recommended guidelines of at least 1 counselor per 250 students and 1 nurse per 750 students.
- Hiring sufficient support staff means classroom teachers are not saddled with extra duties unrelated to teaching and kids are safe in their classrooms.
- School nurses should be available on every campus and schools should publicly disclose the lack of these critical professionals that parents assume are always on-call.
- We need gun reforms to reduce minors’ easy access to dangerous firearms in our state, which has led to an average of 5 mass shootings on Texas school campuses per year for the past 20 years.
Solve the School Worker Shortage
It is past time that policymakers listened to the experts on our schools: the teachers and staff who work in them every day. If they don’t, they’ll continue to see the staffing crisis that threatens the schools our kids deserve.
- Texas teachers need a $10,000 raise to make up for “The Lost Decade” of wages.
- Trusted support staff need a 15% across-the-board raise that reflects the value they bring to each student on campus. All educators should be able to afford to live where they work.
- Lower health care costs for both active and retired teachers by increasing the state’s share of health care contributions so teachers’ raises aren’t immediately eaten up by rising health care costs.
- Guarantee financial security in retirement by passing an annual cost-of-living-adjustment tied to inflation and increasing state contributions to TRS.
- Investing in “Grow Your Own” tuition-free programs will help paraprofessionals and support staff who already know and care about our public schools to get their teaching certifications quickly.
- Protect the rights of school employees to join a union without repercussions and be allowed to voluntarily make contributions through payroll deduction. School employees should also be granted the right to bargain collectively and strike when necessary, as any other worker.
- Put an end to “District of Innovation” exemptions on basic standards like class-size limits, certified teachers, and a defined work year so teachers aren’t sacrificing every weekend with their family to stay afloat at work.
- Bring Texas’ per-student spending up to the national average. Texas is currently 44th in the country for per-student spending, and it shows in our inability to provide the support and wraparound services they need to thrive.
- Stop the siphoning of $3 billion in school funds by halting charter school expansion. Texas can afford world-class public education for our students, but not if it continues to prop up a less accountable, less successful secondary education system — or gives wealthy families tax breaks to send their children to private schools.
- Create professional and respectful working conditions by ending the censorship of professional educators, whether it is those in K-12 from teaching the truth or educators in higher education being threatened with loss of tenure and academic freedom.
- End the overemphasis on the STAAR so that student scores on a standardized test do not determine a teacher’s pay, or even a portion of a teacher’s pay. Schools and school districts should not be graded – much less taken over – based on standardized test scores.
Hear What Our Members Have to Say
You deserve a voice in your profession. We appreciate Dallas ISD teacher & Alliance/AFT member Katrina Rasmussen for using hers to advocate for herself, her peers, and her students.
Who suffers when teachers and support staff leave our schools in droves? Students, as Chikita Washington, a Cy-Fair AFT member and teacher, explains from her own experience.
“We started getting all these stories about, ‘I can’t buy my medicine,’ ‘I can’t put a new air-conditioning unit in my home,’ ‘I can’t visit with my grandchildren’ — and we said, no, it has to stop.” – Rita Runnels, Texas AFT Retiree Plus
Know the Facts
Texas has averaged 5 school shootings per year for the last two decades, and with teachers and staff leaving in droves because of low pay and untenable workloads, our overcrowded classrooms and under-resourced mental health support are presenting their own safety concerns.
Texas is 44th in the country for per-student spending and 39th for funding, an embarrassment for a state that has the world’s ninth-largest economy.
Texas teachers have felt a 10% decrease in real pay on average over the last decade, with some districts experiencing declines as much as 13% and 14%. Real teacher salaries are lower now than they were before the “historic” school funding bill passed in 2019.
From 2019-2021, TEA approved 100% of waivers for class size limits. Oversized classes interfere with student learning, exacerbate disciplinary issues, & are unsafe in emergencies.
Despite posturing about mental health after tragedies like Uvalde, the Abbott administration’s underfunding of education has deprived 98% of Texas students of sufficient access to counselors.
90% of Texas educators surveyed by Texas AFT say they fear there will be a shooting similar to the one in Uvalde in their own classroom.
66% of districts fail to meet the recommended ratio of 1 nurse per 750 students, per the National Association of School Nurses.
Our neighbors have taken strong action to address teacher shortages & seen results. New Mexico teacher vacancies decreased by over a third after the legislature passed pay raises up to 21% for school employees.
Texas has a $28 billion surplus and the second-largest economy in the country. Passing a 15% raise for all school employees in Texas would cost less than 18% of our state’s budget surplus. The solution is clear, but only if state officials choose to prioritize Texas kids.
Research from Texas AFT and Partners
A substantial number of polls, surveys, and studies in the past year all show the same thing: Texans respect their public schools. Our leaders don’t.
Texas AFT Report | Fully Funded, Fully Respected: The Path to Thriving Texas Public Schools
The state of Texas spends roughly $3,314 less per student than the national average each year. That adds up to about $18 billion less spent on Texas public schools than elsewhere in the United States. $18 billion is a substantial sum, but not when looking at the state’s budget as a whole. In this report, Texas AFT and Every Texan put a price tag on a different future, one in which lawmakers prioritize respect for public schools and their employees and one in which we work together to build a public education system that helps Texas children thrive.
Strong Support, Clear Challenges 2023 Poll
A poll of Texans released this year by the Charles Butt Foundation shows that 89% of public school parents say they are satisfied with the quality of their child’s education. Support for teachers is strong, and the vast majority of Texans say their life has been positively impacted by a teacher. But the latest statewide survey on public education by the Charles Butt Foundation finds the profession under duress.
Texas AFT Report | Texas Needs Teachers!
In a call to action, the Texas AFT reached out to Battelle for Kids (BFK), a national not-for-profit serving K-12 education systems for over 20 years, to facilitate conversations with a broad geographic distribution of teachers to not only uncover contributing factors, but to surface solutions and give voice to those closest to the work. This paper presents the findings from a series of focus groups conducted in Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley. Texas Needs Teachers! synthesizes the perspectives of the dedicated teachers who contributed to advance this important discussion. Teacher voice needs to be incorporated into shaping the path forward. In order to solve this critical teacher shortage, we must create deeper understanding of what it is like to be a modern teacher and align solutions accordingly.
AFT Report | Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?
AFT’s national Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force released a report, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? The report outlines targeted solutions to ensure educators have the tools, time, trust, and training they need to do their jobs and to stay in their jobs. The report offers practical, research-proven solutions to reverse the shortages and revitalize the education profession, and emphasizes treating teachers and school staff like the professionals they are, with time to plan and prepare for classes, the chance to collaborate with colleagues, the power to make day-to-day school decisions, and ongoing professional development so they can grow in their careers.
Texas AFT Report | The Lost Decade
In “The Lost Decade,” a report published in April 2022, Texas AFT and Every Texan revealed startling trends in Texas’ funding of public schools, as well as the effects that underfunding has had on teacher and staff salaries. If our state and local leaders fail to address issues like back-sliding pay, we will continue to see headlines about massive teacher and staff shortages, and we will continue to lose hard-working, experienced educators.
National Survey of Public School Parent Voters
A recent national poll commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers shows that parents overwhelmingly support public schools and teachers.
Connected Through Our Schools 2022 Poll
A poll of Texas public school parents released this year by the Charles Butt Foundation shows that 69% of Texans think public school teachers are undervalued in society; 63% think salaries for teachers in their community are too low.
Texas AFT 2022 Gun Safety Survey
In June 2022, Texas AFT surveyed educators statewide, along with parents and community members, about their feelings after Uvalde and solutions they want to see implemented to protect our schools.
2021 Texas AFT Membership Survey
In November, we surveyed our 65,000 members statewide about a variety of issues. In that survey, 66% said they were thinking of leaving education, and they cited the key issues of respect behind that feeling: stagnant pay, rising workloads, concerns about retirement and healthcare, and worries about their own safety.