April 21, 2023: Where’s the sense of urgency on anything that matters?

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

Friday, April 21, 2023

Picking winners and losers

San Antonio Alliance member Teresa Razo and Northeast Houston AFT member Tammy Reyes meet with a representative from Rep. Greg Bonnen’s office this past Tuesday.

San Antonio Alliance member Teresa Razo and Northeast Houston AFT member Tammy Reyes meet with a representative from Rep. Greg Bonnen’s office this past Tuesday.

This week, the Texas House Public Education Committee took up the very important work of debating whether public schools should have a Texas Fruit and Vegetable Day. Nevermind that many of our support staff and paraprofessionals struggle to provide their own families with fresh foods, on Texas Fruit and Vegetable Day or any other. 


Bills that would give privately run charter schools another leg up? Those earned a hearing this week. Bills that would enforce or expand class-size limits? Still left out in the cold. 


At various points this week, the Legislature voted to ban books, require a framed copy of the Ten Commandments in every K-12 classroom, and ban tenure in higher education. Families from Uvalde, meanwhile, had to wait more than 13 hours to testify on a bill that would have prevented the deaths of their children because the Texas House was busy passing a bill to prohibit local governments from mandating rest breaks for construction workers


On Thursday, the House Public Education Committee heard a bill that would allow districts to fill counseling positions with uncertified chaplains. Where’s the sense of urgency to fund schools so they can hire more actual counselors, psychologists, and social workers? Where’s the sense of urgency on anything that matters? 

The Legislature is picking winners and losers. If we don’t speak up, Texas public schools will continue to be the latter.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • The team of legislators who will negotiate a final state budget has been finalized. They need to hear from you.
  • We recap this week in both the Senate and the House, including important testimony from two Texas AFT members.
  • HB 100, the school finance bill, will be voted on next week. It’s time to act.
  • San Antonio ISD passed its largest employee pay raise package in two decades thanks to advocacy from San Antonio Alliance members. 
  • Have you submitted your PSLF application? If not, here’s why you should.

— Texas Legislature

State Budget Negotiators are Announced by House and Senate Leadership

Image reads: Ring ring for raises! With photos of the budget conferees.

This week, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced which legislators will participate in the conference committee on HB 1, the state budget for the next two years. 


These conferees will have the final say on what is included in and excluded from the budget. Conference committees are intended to resolve differences between the Senate version of the budget and the House version:

House Conferees

  • Chair, Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood)
  • Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso)
  • Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond)
  • Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston)
  • Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston)

Senate Conferees

  • Chair, Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston)
  • Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)
  • Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
  • Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)
  • Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown)

These are the legislators who will be crucial in determining whether the state budget will include money for educator raises or for private school vouchers. They need to hear from you. Send them a quick e-letter.

— Texas Legislature

This Week in The Legislature

It was a busy, if not productive, week at the Capitol. 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: The House approves a book ban, while Texas AFT members testify at the House Public Education Committee. The Senate, meanwhile, passes a school safety bill but targets the separation of church and state. 
  • Higher Education: The Senate approves bans on both tenure and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion offices. 
  • Retirement: The House Pensions Committee hears a bill that would reduce retirement flexibility, days before Texas AFT Retiree Plus members convene at the Capitol.

The vote count on book-banning bill, HB 900. All Representatives with an “A” by their name voted for HB 900, all those with an “N” by their name voted against HB 900.

— Texas Legislature

Bills to Watch: Texas House to Consider Your Paychecks, School Safety

Important Bills Heading to a House Vote 

HB 100 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), the House’s comprehensive school finance bill, will head to the House floor Wednesday for a vote. Texas AFT dissected this bill in the Hotline last week, noting its merits and considerable weaknesses. It is crucial this bill is amended to fix some of those flaws, notably, its lack of raises for paraprofessionals and support staff. If you have not done so, please contact Rep. King and call your representative


HB 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) and HB 13 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) would address school safety. Neither bill addresses the availability of firearms, the root cause of gun violence in schools. Instead, the bills would increase school security funding and require armed guards to be stationed on public school campuses. Schools would also be required to implement annual active shooter preparedness plans, and school employees would be required to complete mental health first- aid training.


House Public Education Committee

The House Public Education Committee will convene at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, April 25, in room E2.036 of the Capitol Extension. While the committee will hear several bills, there is one consequential bill of note, which Texas AFT supports:


HB 316 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would add a new section to the Texas Education Code, called “Social Work Services,” allowing social workers to provide services to students and families in a school or district and a requirement that social workers collaborate with school administrators and other school professionals in order to enhance students’ learning environments.

You can submit public comments in support of this bill through the House’s online portal. Need help? Get our public comment guide here.

— Local Wins

San Antonio Alliance Advocacy Wins Largest Pay Raise Package in 25 Years

San Antonio Alliance members at the April 17 school board meeting. 


This week, San Antonio ISD passed its largest employee compensation package in over 25 years, guaranteeing raises from 4-9% for district employees, depending on years of experience. 


The vote was unanimous, and the product of months of advocacy by our members in the San Antonio Alliance, who made significant across-the-board pay raises their top organizing priority at the start of this past school year. 

To pay for the nearly $20 million package, though, the district cut $16 million from its central office budget this school year, with another $6.5 million in cuts expected next year. Superintendent Jaime Aquino was quick to point out these long-overdue investments in staff were made possible only by those cuts, and more action is needed from the Legislature to make further raises possible.

— Student Debt

You’re Not A-loan

Using Summer, a free member benefit provided by AFT, Texas AFT members have had at least $387,224 in student loan debt forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. There is still time to take care of a temporary waiver that could count previously ineligible past payments toward your PFLF requirements. Get your application in before April 30!

Recommended Reading

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

📖Grumet: Texas needs teachers. Why does Gov. Abbott keep attacking them? At the very time we need to recruit and retain teachers, Gov. Greg Abbott has turned their profession into a piñata, an empty approximation of the real thing he can whack for sport. (Austin American-Statesman, April 19) 


📖 In Defense of Public Education. Attacks on public education in America by extremists and culture-war peddling politicians have reached new lows, but they are not new, writes AFT President Randi Weingarten. The difference today is that the attacks are intended not just to undermine public education but to destroy it. (The New York Times, April 16) 

📖 Your thoughts and prayers haven’t done anything’: Uvalde families call for changes to Texas gun laws. For the first time since last year’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas lawmakers considered several bills supporters say could reduce gun violence. Many Uvalde victims’ family members testified Tuesday in favor of House Bill 2744, which would increase the age to buy a semiautomatic weapon from 18 to 21. (KUT, April 19)