April 14, 2023: A Raise Bill is Finally Being Heard

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

Friday, April 14, 2023

Who exactly is this session for?

McAllen A-F-T members hold various anti-voucher protest signs.

McAllen AFT members and LUPE volunteers protest outside Gov. Greg Abbott’s voucher stop at Covenant Christian Academy in McAllen. Photo by Clarissa Riojas.

Last week, the Texas House passed a budget without any provision for meaningful raises for school employees. But that wasn’t the only thing left behind last Thursday. Scuttled budget amendments included $4.2 billion in pension increases and pay raises for retired state employees, who haven’t seen a COLA since 2001.


“Budgets are moral documents, showing plainly what we care about and how much we’re willing to support what we care about,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo last week. 


If that’s the case — and if this budget doesn’t change before it’s finalized — legislators are telling working Texans exactly what they’re worth: nothing. 


What are lawmakers focused on? Restricting schools from acknowledging the existence of LGBTQIA+ people. Defunding public libraries. Preventing construction workers from taking rest breaks. And, of course, siphoning money away from public schools and into the pockets of private schools.  


None of these things are popular. None of these things are being clamored for by Texans at large. And while these harmful bills suck up time and energy, actual solutions — bills that would lower class sizes or reduce educator paperwork — sit unheard by committees. 

There’s 47 days until this session ends. It would be nice if lawmakers used them to help instead of hurt.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • A deep dive into HB 100, a school finance bill with some pros and significant cons
  • A slew of Texas AFT members testified against voucher bills in the Texas House this week, while the Senate pushed through a book ban and an attack on higher education
  • Texas AFT has signed on with 100+ orgs to an open letter condemning the Legislature’s attacks on LGBTQIA+ Texans
  • The State Board of Education had a relatively uneventful, but not altogether harmless meeting
  • TEA’s planned takeover of Houston ISD remains an absolute mess

— Texas Legislature

Here’s what’s in school finance bill HB 100 — and what’s not.

Image reads: we all need a raise, we all deserve respect.

A central demand of our Respect Agenda is a real raise for all public school employees: a minimum $10,000 for teachers and certified staff and at least 15% for paraprofessionals and support staff.


Two bills that featured such raises — HB 1548 and HB 4586 — are gathering dust, waiting to be heard by the House Public Education Committee. The school finance bill that is moving is HB 100, which passed out of the committee last week. 


As it’s currently written, there are real positives and real negatives to HB 100, authored by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian). While there are some improvements to how public schools are funded, the raises it would guarantee to teachers are minimal — and nonexistent for support staff. 


There is still time to improve this bill before it heads to the House floor for a vote, but we need all school employees and supporters to understand what the bill would do and how it should be changed. Read our full breakdown of the bill on our website. 

After you do, we need you to reach out to Rep. Ken King, the author of HB 100, and ask him to put money back in his bill for support staff. Click here to send an e-letter ASAP.

— Texas Legislature

This week in The Legislature

The Texas Legislature was in full swing this week. Both the House and the Senate moved forward with legislation that, if passed, would have significant implications for public school educators, higher education employees, and retirees.


Read our full recap online to get all the details on major developments in: 

  • Public Education: House committee hears voucher testimony, and the Senate votes for book bans
  • Higher Education: The Senate continues to attack academic freedom, while the House approves an historic community college funding proposal
  • Retirement: One COLA bill is making its way through the Legislature

Leaders from Cy-Fair AFT, the Houston Federation of Teachers, La Joya AFT, and Northside AFT meet with Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) on Thursday

— Texas Legislature

Next Week in The Legislature: Bills to Watch

For the first time this session, the House Public Education Committee will convene twice in one week. Both days will include highly consequential bills. Both hearings will begin at 8 a.m. and will take place in room E2.036 of the Capitol extension.


This Tuesday, (April 18), the committee will consider:

  • HB 1926 by Rep. Lacey Hull (R-Houston) would remove the expiration date of the temporary special education voucher approved by the Legislature last session, making the program permanent. 


This Thursday (April 20), the committee will consider:

  • HB 1572 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) would increase funding to charter schools by removing facilities funding limits. Charter schools already have many funding advantages compared to traditional public schools. Removing these limits would cost an additional $240 million per year, dollars which would otherwise go to public schools.


In addition to the committee action next week, a few consequential bills further along in the legislative process will likely be considered on the floor of the House and Senate.


Next week, the full House will likely consider:

  • HB 100 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) is the comprehensive school finance bill.


Next week, the full Senate will likely consider:

  • SB 17 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would prohibit any state funding from going to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs. These offices seek to promote racial and ethnic diversity, diversity in sexual orientation, diversity in gender identity, and diversity in overall experience, including targeted recruitment of combat veterans, for example. Any faculty member found to be promoting DEI would be dismissed, and the university would be financially punished. 
  • SB 18 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would prohibit institutions of higher education from providing tenure to any newly hired faculty. Tenure protects academic freedom in teaching and research. Tenure also provides professors with economic security, which makes a career in higher education a more attractive career option.

To oppose those bills, send a letter to your senator and representative demanding that they defend higher education in Texas.

— Texas School Boards

AFT Members Push Districts to Stand Up for More Funding, Against Vouchers

Left, Cy-Fair AFT members fill the room at their school board meeting; right, Spring AFT members stop for a photo after presenting a resolution to their school board. 


The fight for respect is in Austin, but it’s also in our own districts. Texas AFT members across the state have been pushing hard on their school board members to stand with us in fighting for fully funded, fully respected public schools. That also means standing with us against attempts to privatize and defund our schools. 


Thanks to the efforts of our members, Aldine ISD, Cy-Fair ISD, PSJA ISD, and Socorro ISD have all passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to increase funding for public schools and reject voucher bills. Members in Spring ISD and Brazosport ISD have presented draft resolutions to their school boards too. 


That’s the difference between an organization that provides you insurance and discounts and a true union of your peers. We stand together, we fight together, and we move the ball forward. 

If you’re a K-12 public school employee (or you work in higher ed!), consider joining us today: https://www.texasaft.org/join/.

— LGBTQ+ Rights

Texas AFT Joins with 100+ Orgs to Condemn Attacks on LGBTQIA+ Texans

Texas AFT has signed on to an open letter from more than 100 organizations, defending the rights of LGBTQIA+ Texans, once again under assault by the Texas Legislature.

“Today, certain politicians are pushing laws that restrict our freedoms because of the color of our skin, what’s in our wallets, or because we are LGBTQIA+,” the letter states.

“They exploit divisions and fears among us so they can get and hold onto power, denying us the basic rights, resources, respect, and safety all people deserve.” 


Picking up where it left off in 2021, the 88th Legislature has introduced a number of new bills attacking LGBTQIA+ Texans, both adults and children, including bills that would ban Pride celebrations on campus (HB 1507) and censor books that uplift LGBTQIA+ experiences (HB 900).

The Texas Senate even laced its voucher bill, SB 8, with hateful “Don’t Say Gay” censorship language.

Saturday, April 15: Queer March on the Capitol 

The attacks on LGBTQIA+ Texans at the Legislature are escalating, so Equality Texas and allies plan to meet that escalation with action. Join a diverse coalition Saturday, April 15, starting at noon, for the Queer Capitol March. Sign up to march online.

—Texas Education Agency

Latest Updates on TEA’s Takeover of Houston ISD

Houston ISD students and parents protested the takeover at school campuses across the city Thursday, April 6. Photos courtesy of Community Voices for Public Education


The Texas Education Agency presented its takeover plans in more detail to the sitting Houston ISD Board of Trustees on Thursday, in a community meeting that went about as well as its previous attempts.  

And once again, Commissioner Mike Morath was not in attendance. Read more from the meeting on our website.

— Event

Network for Public Education Discussion on TEA’s Takeover of Houston ISD

Houston Schools Takeover: A Conversation with Diane Ravitch, Domingo Morel, & Daniel Santos

Tuesday, April 18

6 p.m. CT

Register here


This Zoom event from the Network for Public Education will be a fascinating conversation that delves into the politics behind the takeover of Houston ISD, the eighth-largest school district in the nation, and the repercussions for students, teachers, and democracy itself. 

Daniel Santos, an eighth-grade teacher in Houston ISD and Houston Federation of Teachers member, will take part.

— State Board of Education

Eyes on the Board: SBOE to Review Charter School Rules, New Applicants

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met in Austin this week to discuss its regular agenda. This meeting was heavily administrative, but there are some things to note and watch for: 

  • In the first real test for this new SBOE of whether supporters of real public schools can hold the line against predatory charters moving into our state, board members will review the “no-contact” rule that prevents charter applicants from contacting SBOE members prior to their public hearing. 
  • Between 8-11 Generation 28 charter school applications will receive a capacity interview in May before the commissioner of education makes his final recommendations to the SBOE. The board will vote to approve or deny these applicants at its June meeting.
  • On Friday, the SBOE voted down a State Board for Educator Certification rule relating to the updated school librarian certificate. The board’s reasoning was that it contained references to the American Library Association (ALA) code of ethics that protects the right of privacy in what a student reads.

Read more on our website.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Texas Officials Would Rather Close Library Than Stock Books They Don’t Like. County commissioners in Llano, Texas have signaled they would rather close an entire library system than comply with a court order to stop censoring books. (Vice, April 11) 


📖 How Republicans’ threats to tenure and diversity might undercut their own efforts to advance Texas’ universities. Texas lawmakers are poised to create a new multibillion-dollar endowment to boost emerging research universities in national rankings. But faculty members say banning diversity offices and tenure would stymie those efforts. (The Texas Tribune, April 11) 

📖 Houston public schools have a diverse, nearly all-women school board. A state takeover would oust them from office. The ACLU of Texas, along with the NAACP and other advocacy groups, is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether TEA’s plan to take over Houston ISD violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. (The 19th, April 11)