With private school voucher push, governor heads in the wrong direction for retaining teachers

Gov. Abbott with a microphone. A sign in the background outlines his parental rights platform.

While our Lost Decade report outlined how increases in per-pupil funding are the key to teacher recruitment and retention with higher wages, Gov. Greg Abbott’s response to the crisis is to wage a campaign to take money from public schools and give it to private schools in the form of vouchers. On Monday at a campaign rally, Abbott said a voucher program would be one of his priorities for the next Legislative session in January 2023.

Texas AFT has long opposed vouchers. Recent studies have shown that they have a negative impact on student achievement. Vouchers also rob public schools of money and use taxpayer dollars for unaccountable private-school tuition. Recent failed proposals in Texas would benefit upper-middle-class parents, because the amount of the voucher wouldn’t be enough to cover private-school tuition.

“This does nothing but take away from rural kids to give a tax break for those in the cities—most of whom can already afford private school—or it would create more cottage industries to make money off the backs of children,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo told the Dallas Morning News. “Neither is a good choice.”

We’ve beaten back vouchers for some 25 years in the Legislature—largely because rural Republican legislators see no benefit in the scheme and see their public schools as foundational to their communities. But you can be assured that the governor will put his weight behind vouchers in 2023, as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has done for several sessions.

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Nine new charter schools seek approval from TEA and the SBOE, creating another wave of expansion harmful to public schools
This week, the Texas Education Agency, as well as some SBOE board members, interviewed  nine Generation 27 charter-school applicants—yet another attempt to expand  charter chains and campuses that will take money from neighborhood schools.Texas AFT worked with allies to analyze these applications and provide questions about the viability of these proposed campuses.

Charters are not beholden to the same requirements as districts with regard to facilities, school safety, and transportation, to name a few. Additional clarity was needed concerning the applicants’ proposed curriculums, budgets, and staffing plans, as well as their ability to meet the needs of emergent bilingual students and students receiving special education services. The commissioner of education will make his recommendations for approval or denial at the end of May. The State Board of Education will have the final authority to approve or reject these applications at their June meeting. A majority of the SBOE members present and voting may veto any of the commissioner’s proposed charters.

We stand firmly opposed to charter expansion in Texas as these campuses drain our public schools of students and financial resources. We will continue to work with other organizations through the application process to ensure our kids and our tax dollars stay in our neighborhood public schools.

SBEC approves new educator certification test in the face of widespread opposition to the change

On April 29, the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) approved a controversial new test—the edPTA by Pearson—to replace the PPR for state certification. Texas AFT joined several educator organizations, educator preparation programs, and school district personnel in opposing the approval of this exam. We signed on to a letter to the SBEC along with several other Texas stakeholders and education advocates representing nearly 700,000 Texans citing the cost of the exam to teacher candidates, the aggressive rollout of its implementation, and its lack of alignment to Texas educator standards, among other reasons to delay the implementation of edTPA. Despite substantial opposition, the governor-appointed SBEC voted to approve the exam.


The State Board of Education will vote at its June meeting to affirm or reject SBEC’s decision. Texas AFT will continue our coalition work to protect the integrity of the teacher pipeline and ensure teacher preparation in Texas remains robust and focused on serving our public school students.

Participants at the Lunch and Learn sit at tables throughout a large room looking at materials while two women present information on a screen.

Legislative staffers review the Lost Decade report at the Capitol Thursday.

‘Lunch and Learn’ gives Capitol staffers and officials a review of the education retention crisis outlined in ‘The Lost Decade’ report

Yesterday afternoon at the Texas Capitol, Texas AFT staff briefed a full house of legislative staffers and several elected officials on the findings published by Texas AFT and a non-profit partner, Every Texan, in our research report The Lost Decade. Texas AFT Director of Public Affairs and Legislative Counsel Patty Quinzi and Every Texan Program Director of Economic Opportunity Chandra Kring Villanueva presented data from the report and answered questions from the audience.

Quinzi informed the staffers and officials that Texas teachers, on average, have seen a 4% drop in their salaries since the 2009-2010 school year, when taking into account inflation. Villanueva explained how HB 3, which was touted as a teacher pay raise, provided short-term salary increases but also provided long-term property tax rate reductions, which have ultimately led to an overall reduction in per-pupil funding, when accounting for inflation.

Quinzi and Villanueva emphasized the importance of raising the basic allotment, a baseline benchmark for how the state collects and distributes funding per student. The current basic allotment of $6,160 per-pupil was set back in 2019 and has not been adjusted for inflation. Due to COVID-19 and many other factors, the cost of educating students has risen significantly, while the basic allotment has remained stagnant. The state of Texas now ranks 45th in per-pupil spending. Each legislator’s office also received a bound copy of the report to have on hand. 

The briefing also included a mention of Texas AFT’s Respect Pledge. Elected officials and candidates are encouraged to sign on to the respect pledge to show their commitment to public education.

Four candidates cutout agains a dark blue background: Ruben Cortez, Venton Jones, Joseph Trahan, and Dr. Suleman Lalani. White texst at top:

Help these four public-ed champions win their primary runoffs for the Texas House: Early voting starts Monday

Join us for an evening of texting to Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) on Tuesday, May 17, with Ruben Cortez, Venton Jones, Joseph Trahan, and Dr. Suleman Lalani—all educator-endorsed candidates in primary runoffs for the Texas House. It’s time to elect pro-public education legislators that will fight for raises and respect in our classrooms. This mixer will be especially important since early voting starts Monday, May 16, and runs through Friday, May 20.

You can check here to see if candidates are in runoffs for your districts. But you do not need to be in the districts we are doing GOTV for to help out on Tuesday.

The mixer will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Just bring your favorite drink and a charged phone or laptop and join us on Zoom. Click here to sign up.  Whoever sends the most texts by May 24 will receive a $100 gift card!

Want a raise? Help us fight for it. Sign up for our summer ‘Win Respect Fellowship’

Texas school employees are at a breaking point: hundreds of vacancies in every school district, 66% of school employees considering leaving the profession, and the pipeline of new educators drying up as a generation opts out of teaching. 

At the same time, we have a historic opportunity. Educators in other southern states are winning once-in-a-generation victories: In the last few weeks, teachers in New Mexico won an average salary increase of 20% and Alabama educators won an increase in pay of up to 21%. Now it’s our turn. School employees in Texas are the largest employee base in the state. At over 650,000 strong, we have power — let’s use it. 

Texas AFT’s “Win Respect” Fellowship will bring together AFT members from across the state who are serious about transforming our working conditions, winning a statewide salary increase, and more. Starting June 14, we will meet on Zoom every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central Time for five weeks to train up AND start moving our Respect Agenda statewide.

The Win Respect Fellowship is open to all AFT members in Texas. Sign up now! Because we don’t need a task force. We need a movement.