April 12, 2024: Full Speed Ahead and No Sign of Relief

Header reads: Texas A-F-T. The Hotline.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Graph of the basic allotment adjusted for inflation over 13 years.

Despite recent claims that public education is at a “record high,” the real data shows

Texas schools are starving. 

Full Speed Ahead and No Sign of Relief 

Texans are still reeling from the tornado of bad policy that came out of last year’s recordbreaking five legislative sessions.  

Public school students are being cut off from critical reading materials thanks to the HB 900 book ban. College students are being cut off from critical community resources and college employees are being laid off thanks to SB 17’s ban on inclusionary resources. The entire public school community is feeling the strains of underfunding after the legislature failed to increase the basic allotment after half a decade of stagnation. 

But lawmakers like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are showing no signs of stopping.  

This week he released his “interim charges,” items that he recommends the legislature study in preparation for next session. Patrick didn’t fully tip his hand of his intentions for next year, but he teased a few things that will be top of mind in 2025.  

This year, Patrick included 57 charges. Across the 57 charges a few items worthy of study were certainly missing. In the entire document, which we dive into later in this Hotline, there was: 

  • No mention of school funding,  
  • No mention of educator working conditions, and 
  • No mention of educator compensation. 

In these charges, Patrick tells us what his priorities are — and more importantly, what they are not. This November at the ballot box, it’s our turn to tell him and the rest of state leadership what our priorities are. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • We unpack more of what Dan Patrick excluded from his list of charges. 
  • There are rumors spreading that Texas public education is “secretly” getting lots of funding, let’s squash those myths.  
  • Every Texan’s new “Texas is the Tale of Two Economies” report highlights the issues of the Texas worker and the critical role workers play in building the Texas economy.  
  • Harsh LGBTQ+ policies in Texas are directly impacting students of all ages.  

— Texas Legislature

Lt. Gov. Announces Interim Charges to Study for 2025 Session 

This Thursday, April 11, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick dropped a list of 57 charges for senate committees to study in preparation for the 89th legislative session next spring. Nearly a third of the charges he included were either directly or indirectly related to education in Texas, but none of the charges directed lawmakers to study the need for increased school funding after half a decade of stagnation. 

In between legislative sessions, a period known by lawmakers as the “interim,” the Lt. Governor, who presides over the Texas Senate, and the Speaker of the Texas House each develop a list of charges that they wish for each chamber to study in preparation for the next legislative session. These charges are broken down by subject matter according to each committee’s jurisdiction. After soliciting advice from invited experts and public testifiers during interim public hearings, the committee will compile a report that includes their findings and their own recommendations. 

Interim charges and the subsequent hearings are critical for shaping legislation and setting the tone for the next legislative session. The leaders of each chamber typically formulate the charges to reflect their intended legislative agenda for the upcoming session, but interim charges also include the review of significant legislation passed during previous legislative sessions. 

— Funding

Tweet from Brian Harrison claiming that public schools are well-funded.

Fact Check: Are Texas schools secretly better funded than ever before? 

Gov. Greg Abbott and some Republican lawmakers have recently claimed that Texas is funding public education at its highest level ever despite the high-profile failure of the 88th Texas Legislature to increase the basic allotment or provide raises for educators and school employees when those bipartisan priorities were held hostage for universal voucher legislation. 

This concocted narrative is dishonest and misleading. Per-student spending has decreased by $590 in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past 10 years according to the state’s Legislative Budget Board (LBB). Additionally, an Austin-American Statesman analysis of public education funding in recent years found that, “adjusted to 2024 dollars, per-student funding from state and local sources is down by 12.9% — $10,387 this year [2023-24] compared with $11,919 per student in 2020.” Rather than growing the state share, which dropped to 43.8% in 2023 (40.8% if you include facilities funding), state spending has been supplanted by growth in local spending (and recapture) and artificially bolstered by temporary federal COVID-relief funding set to expire this fall ($6 billion total or ~$1,400 per student more than usual in 2022). 

— Community College

Austin Community College Passes Free Tuition Program for Eligible High School Seniors 

Last week the Austin Community College (ACC) Board of Trustees approved a proposal to offer free tuition for high school graduates and GED completers starting with the class of 2024.  

This pilot program – referred to as the College Affordability Plan – will fully cover tuition for the next five years of high school graduates and will be reevaluated after five years. 

The program would cover the entirety of tuition costs for all public, private, and charter school high school graduates as well as GED completers in the ACC service area, which includes Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Elgin ISD, Hays CISD, Leander ISD, Manor ISD, and Round Rock ISD. The proposal does not include any restrictions based on GPA or income. 

“ACC AFT is very excited by the passage of the free tuition plan,” said ACC AFT President Dr. David Albert. “Thanks to the organizing power of our members and their generous COPE donations, we have – over many years – helped to elect a progressive board of trustees, and that board has appointed a chancellor committed to social justice. By passing this free tuition plan, the board has truly aligned our college’s budget with our community’s values.” 

Take Action

The first subjects to go through the SBOE’s new instructional materials review and adoption (IMRA) process (mandated by HB 1605) will be K-8 ELA, K-6 Spanish language arts and reading, and K-12 mathematics. Texas AFT members with relevant experience should apply to become IMRA quality reviewers.

The application closes at 11:59 p.m. on April 15.

— Worker Rights

Image reads: Texas is the tale of two economies.

Every Texan Releases “Texas is the Tale of Two Economies” Report 

Every Texan has released a report named “Texas is the Tale of Two Economies” to highlight the amount of wealth inequality being created in Texas by millions of workers not receiving their fair share, despite the consistent hours of hard work being put in. This series of reports will be pivotal to understanding not only the plight of Texas workers, but the massive role that employees in all sectors of work play in helping to bolster our strong state economy, while also informing readers about how reforms can be achieved. 


According to the US Census, Texas’ GDP has risen 115% in the last 25 years, its GDP per worker increased by 38%, and the GDP per capita rose by 39%. Economic success is highly present in industries across Texas, yet those who are helping to achieve this success are receiving little financial support and recognition for their efforts. Studies have found that half of Americans earn less than their parents do, meanwhile 66 billionaires earn more than 70% of all Texans combined. The wealth inequality in Texas has grown disproportionately and is leaving millions of hardworking Texans with little to no wiggle room in their monthly budgets. 

— LGBTQ+ Rights

Hate Crimes Against LGBTQ+ Youth Surge in States with Restrictive Laws 

The safety of LGBTQ+ students in K-12 schools is under scrutiny as hate crimes targeting them surge across the United States, particularly in states with laws limiting their rights. An analysis of FBI data by The Washington Post unveils a disturbing reality: hate crimes on K-12 campuses have more than quadrupled in states with restrictive legislation, painting a grim picture of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth in education when state legislatures prioritize politics over the wellbeing of children. 


Since the onset of trivial debates surrounding LGBTQ+ rights, including issues related to sports participation, curriculum, and facilities, states with restrictive LGBTQ+ laws have witnessed a more than fourfold increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ students. This surge in hate crimes is deeply concerning and indicative of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth in educational environments. With the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reporting that hate crimes in Texas have increased by 6.4 percent from 2021 to 2022, the state has seen a record-breaking increase in LGBTQ+ hate crimes.  


In Texas, Senate Bill 17 mandates the closure of diversity, equity, and inclusion offices on college campuses and prohibits mandatory diversity training, raising concerns about the inclusivity of higher education environments. Critics argue that these measures will diminish the sense of belonging for underrepresented groups and impede efforts to build campuses reflective of Texas’s population. This further proves that these targeted attacks are across all levels of education and that all students face rising hate. 

Photo by Mariana Krueger, CCR Studios. 

Honoring Elaine Jones 

We mourn the loss of dedicated Corpus Christi AFT member Elaine Jones, who recently passed. Elaine contributed essential work to our TRS COLA campaign, which she finally received just last year. She retired in 1998 after 34 years of teaching.

Though she will be missed, Elaine’s legacy lives on in the Texas labor movement and will continue in our work to come.

— Event

Event graphic.

AFT Book Club: A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat 

Sunday, April 14 

5 p.m. CT 

Join us for our April AFT Book Club session featuring AFT President Randi Weingarten and renowned author Edwidge Danticat, discussing Danticat’s memoir Brother, I’m Dying. Engage with Weingarten and Danticat as they explore themes that delve into the complexities of family, identity, immigration, and political turmoil, framed within a deeply personal narrative. Brother, I’m Dying is not only a tribute to Danticat’s family and heritage but also a profound exploration of the themes that touch on universal human experiences. Through her intimate and evocative storytelling, Danticat offers insights into the intricacies of life, loss and the enduring power of familial bonds.

Educators can receive one hour of professional development recertification credit for participating in this webinar if they complete all the poll questions, survey, and actively watch the webinar. 

Recommended Reading

Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time

📖  Texas will use computers to grade written answers on this year’s STAAR tests 

TEA is rolling out an “automated scoring engine” for open-ended questions on the STAAR for reading, writing, science and social studies. The technology, which uses natural language processing, a building block of artificial intelligence chatbots such as GPT-4, will save the state agency about $15 million to 20 million per year that it would otherwise have spent on hiring human scorers through a third-party contractor. With the stakes so high for campuses and districts, there is a sense of uneasiness about a computer’s ability to score responses as well as a human can. (Texas Tribune, April 9)  

Some state and city leaders are urging the University of Texas to reconsider the termination of at least 66 employees who were previously in DEI positions. “They lost staff who provided the academic advising, the scholarships, connections with internships, counseling, health services, food pantries, and ways to connect with other students,” said Dr. Brian Evans, the interim president of the Texas American Association of University Professors. (FOX 7 Austin, April 10) 

Research has found that voting is habit-forming, and high schools are a critical training ground to initiating that pattern. Despite this, many campuses are falling short when it comes to implementing registration drives or even distributing information. (Texas Tribune, April 10)