April 19, 2024: In the Room

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

Friday, April 19, 2024

This past Tuesday, April 16, the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a meeting to discuss the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), two provisions that heavily penalize many Texas educators and public employees.  

AFT members from across the country were there, meeting with legislators and observing the proceedings. Among them was Rita Runnels, chair of Texas AFT Retiree Plus.  

It is past time for Congress to repeal WEP & GPO. Send AFT’s e-letter to your representative and senators. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Tension between the State Board of Education and the State Board for Educator Certification was on display in Austin last week.  
  • We fact check a viral social media claim reshared by former President Donald Trump that millions of Texans registered to vote without photo ID.  
  • Medicare-eligible TRS retirees may see a drop in their TRS-Care premiums soon.  
  • Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released interim charges for the Texas Senate on higher education issues, and they are worrisome.  

— State Board of Education

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SBOE Recap: Rules Approved, SBEC Cautioned

The State Board of Education gathered in Austin from April 9-12 for what promised to be consequential meetings related to educator certification and other topics important to our membership. 

In our full recap of the meeting, we break down the major points you need to know, including:  

  • Updates on instructional materials review for English and Spanish language arts and reading and mathematics, as well as forthcoming reviews of certain TEKS standards 
  • Commissioner Mike Morath’s claim that districts “have given up” on teacher quality, with booming numbers of uncertified teachers 
  • Important updates to the Texas Dyslexia Handbook 
  • Disagreements between the SBOE and the SBEC on edTPA and the proposed “TxTPA” certification exam 
  • An explanation, of sorts, for last month’s reckless Permanent School Fund divestment announcement 

— Event

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Educating Texas: Follow the Money 

Tuesday, April 30 

6 p.m. CT 

Texas has the eighth-largest economy in the world and a $32.7 billion budget surplus, but our schools are starved for resources. How did this happen? What can we do to fix it? Can it be fixed? 

Head back to school with Texas AFT for a brush-up on your civics education. In this bimonthly Zoom series, we’re walking through who holds the power in this state, what they’re doing with it, and what we need to build thriving public schools — and a thriving Lone Star State democracy. 

Our next session is this Tuesday, April 30. Throughout the past two election cycles, we’ve seen unprecedented money flowing into races for the Legislature and the State Board of Education. Often that money is coming from billionaires, both inside and outside of Texas, who want to privatize public education. What does this moneyed influence mean for civic engagement in Texas, and what do you need to know? Sign up for this and all other sessions on our Mobilize page. 

Missed our previous sessions? Watch the recordings on our YouTube page. 

— Elections

Fact Check: Have millions of Texans registered to vote without photo ID this year? 

In an April 2 post on X (formerly Twitter) that received 56,000 likes and attention from both Elon Musk and former President Donald Trump, an account named @EndWokeness claimed that 1,250,710 voters registered without a photo ID in Texas since the start of 2024. 

This claim is blatantly false and has been refuted by Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson, a Republican. 


“It is totally inaccurate that 1.2 million voters have registered to vote in Texas without a photo ID this year. 

The truth is our voter rolls have increased by 57,711 voters since the beginning of 2024. This is less than the number of people registered in the same timeframe in 2022 (about 65,000) and in 2020 (about 104,000),” Nelson said in a statement. 

Even Attorney General Ken Paxton, who supported Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results, has refuted this misinformation by sharing Nelson’s statement on X.  


The @EndWokeness account misrepresented data from the Social Security Administration, and we explain what that data actually means in the full article on our website. 

— Elections

Reminder: Early Voting Starts April 22 for May 4 Municipal Elections 

It’s that time of year again: early voting season! As we get closer to the municipal election date (May 4), it’s hugely important that we make our voices heard in this upcoming election. As the war on public education — and public educators — continues, we must elect candidates, especially to local governments, who not only oppose school vouchers but will also put their full support behind supporting teachers and students.   


For the May 4 election, early voting starts Monday, April 22, and runs until Tuesday, April 30. The deadline to submit a mail-in ballot is April 23. You can check your registration status before voting, and keep in mind that a photo ID is required in order to cast a ballot. 


As a reminder, this local election date is separate from the May 28 uniform election date on which primary runoff elections will be held; voters in some places can vote in two consequential elections in May. 

Averie Bishop talking at dinner with a Dallas member.

Last week, Averie Bishop, Texas AFT COPE’s endorsed candidate in the race for Texas House District 112, joined Texas AFT United members for a meal in Richardson to discuss her campaign and her priorities for public education. Bishop herself works as a substitute teacher in Richardson ISD. Find the full list of Texas AFT COPE endorsements at vote.texasaft.org.

— Health care

State Leaders Call for TRS-Care Premium Reduction, Re-Enrollment for Medicare-Eligible Retirees 

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Finance Chair Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) sent an open letter to TRS Board of Trustees Chair Jarvis Hollingsworth asking him to examine the possibility of reducing premiums for Medicare-eligible retirees. Due to the prospective premium decrease, the letter also directed the TRS board to consider allowing retirees who previously left the system to re-enroll for a limited time. 


Retirees know that TRS-Care premiums jumped significantly in 2017 as the system faced a budget shortfall of nearly a billion dollars, and the premiums have remained high since. However, after billions of dollars of state aid were injected into the system and structural changes were made to Medicare administration at the federal level, the system is now solvent. It is past time to pass on those savings to our state’s retirees.  


Because the recent budgetary savings arose thanks to administrative changes to Medicare, it appears as though Medicare-eligible participants in TRS-Care Medicare Advantage will be the only population eligible for premium reduction. 

— Texas Legislature

Lt. Gov. Announces Politicized Interim Charges for Higher Education 

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released his interim charges, outlining the items that Patrick intends for senators to study in preparation for the next legislative session. In our last edition of the Hotline, Texas AFT unpacked each of interim charges that affect K-12 public education. This week, we’re diving into the seven interim charges announced by the lieutenant governor that affect higher education. 


In his first interim charge listed for the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee, Patrick reveals a great deal about his intentions for higher education in the next legislative session. He directs the committee to “review and analyze the structures and governance in higher education, focusing on the role of ‘faculty senates.’” Faculty senates are governing bodies at many institutions of higher education across the country that represent faculty voices in governance of colleges and universities. This includes, in many cases, a voice when it comes to personnel decisions, selection of administrators, preparation of the budget, and determination of educational policies 


Shared governance through faculty senates or similar institutions is a core tenet of academic freedom as outlined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which is affiliated with AFT. The fact that Patrick, who has blatantly disregarded the importance of academic freedom through his repeated attacks on higher education last session, is directing the Senate to “make recommendations to establish guidelines” regarding faculty senates is not a good sign for the survival of these critical institutions. 

— State Board for Educator Certification

Image reads: State board for educator certification.

SBEC Preview: Back to the Drawing Board

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) will meet in Austin on Friday, April 26. We anticipate a relatively quiet agenda except for the recap of the State Board of Education proceedings and anticipated discussion of the revised request for proposal (RFP) for a Texas-specific performance assessment.   

We covered the results of the SBOE ratification of Chapter 230 elsewhere in this week’s Hotline. The board was crystal clear in its directive to the SBEC to continue with a concerted effort to develop the TxTPA. While Texas AFT has never supported a performance assessment as an appropriate certification exam, the SBOE’s comments at its meeting suggest elected SBOE members (if not appointed SBEC members) are listening to stakeholders. The Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam will remain an option for all educator preparation programs and their candidates. The seven remaining programs choosing to use edTPA may still choose to use that exam without a negative impact to program accountability.  

Up next week in the SBEC board room there will be a first discussion of the process to review the Texas Pedagogy Standards. A 40-member Educator Standards Advisory Committee representing practicing educators, school district personnel, subject-matter experts, and educator preparation program faculty from across the state have been meeting to discuss and review these standards. We expect a robust conversation in the room with a possible action item at the July meeting.

Recommended Reading

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

📖  HISD scrapped its controversial principal screening after backlash. But teacher screenings remain. Houston ISD teachers at about half of the district’s campuses will learn on May 6 whether they are eligible to keep their jobs under a proficiency screening process, even after the district reversed course on using a similar process for principals following community backlash. (Houston Chronicle, April 16)  

📖  Texas book-banning law gutted by appeals court in a blow to state Republicans. Key portions of a law signed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott requiring booksellers to rate books for sexual content when selling to schools will not go into effect after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to reconsider an earlier decision. (San Antonio Express-News, April 17)  

📖  Most 18-year-old Texans aren’t signed up to vote despite a law requiring voter registration in high schoolsA 1983 Texas law requiring high schools to distribute voter registration forms to students who are 17 years and 10 months old or older was intended to boost turnout among young voters. But the secretary of state’s office, which was charged with creating the instructions to implement the law, doesn’t track compliance. And schools that fail to distribute registration forms to eligible students aren’t penalized. (Texas Tribune, April 10)