On Monday, Texas AFT gathered members on Zoom and in person at the Children’s Museum of Houston to officially launch our Respect Us or Expect Us campaign for the 2022 midterm elections and 88th legislative session next year. The launch included a press conference revealing the findings of a series of focus groups with Texas educators, as well as a Texas AFT Summer School event that combined research and data with educator and school employee voices to outline several core components of respect:
- Wages that reflect the worth of our work
- Fully funded schools that meet our students’ needs
- Secure retirement and affordable healthcare
- Trust in our professionalism and expertise (without classroom censorship)
- Safe working and learning conditions, free from violence
“In the big scheme of things, when I listen to our support staff having to decide on feeding their families, unable to cover medical expenses, or splitting mortgage payments, it truly saddens me,” said Chikita Washington, a paraprofessional in Cy-Fair ISD. “Ultimately, who suffers in this debacle? The students.”
The event also showcased the power of organizing, by highlighting numerous wins by local unions and Associate Membership Program members on employee wages within their districts. You’ll see a full accounting of those wins in a future Hotline.
New Report Provides Solutions for Texas Teacher & Staff Retention Crisis
Nearly 43,000 Texas teachers left their job in the last school year, and a new report commissioned by our union outlines needed solutions to keep teachers and staff in their jobs.
The study, entitled “Texas Needs Teachers! Voices from the Field,” presents the findings from a series of focus groups conducted in Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley, in addition to two virtual options attended by well over 100 Texas teachers. Texas AFT coordinated with Battelle for Kids, a national education non-profit, to conduct the focus groups.
Nearly half of the recommended solutions identified by Texas educators concerned working conditions, followed by needs for greater compensation and affordable, robust healthcare benefits. Solutions range from actions needed at the local level to measures that should be taken up by the Texas Legislature.
Texas teachers in the focus groups identified several solutions:
- Increase staffing and instructional support to increase teachers’ ability to service every student’s unique learning needs.
- Decrease the amount of time required for non-learning tasks.
- Create paid mentor programs for new professionals.
- Allow experienced educators to grow others within the profession and receive financial rewards.
- Include teacher voices in state and district policymaking.
The report emphasizes the importance of educator voices in decision-making and policy development. Notably, the report was released as the House Public Education Committee began two days of meetings on a variety of topics with educators themselves notably underrepresented.
“Right now, the House Public Education Committee is meeting for two days in Austin about a slew of issues facing our public education system. You know how many educators Chairman Harold Dutton invited to testify before committee members? One,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “You wonder why so many are leaving the profession? You wonder why our teachers and school staff don’t feel respected? Here’s your answer.”
Members Stretch Their Activism Muscles with the Win Respect Fellowship
This summer, more than 300 teachers and school employees signed up to participate in Texas AFT’s five-week Win Respect Fellowship.
After five virtual sessions that helped participants sharpen their organizing and activism skills, 46 AFT members from across the state graduated from the fellowship.
These graduates include members of both local unions and the Associate Membership Program, and they were celebrated at the launch event this past weekend. So far, graduates have scheduled 14 meetings with state representatives and senators to share their personal stories and to encourage officials to sign on to our Respect Pledge.
Elected Officials, Candidates Sign on to the Respect Pledge
Two legislators, Rep. Ron Reynolds and Rep. Jon Rosenthal, along with Texas AFT-endorsed state comptroller candidate Janet Dudding, attended the event and signed on to our Respect Pledge, vowing their public support for increased public education funding.