Publish Date: May 1, 2023 11:19 am Author: Texas AFT
Friday, April 28, 2023
Crumbs Aren’t Good Enough
Photo by Marianna Krueger, CCR Studios
The state of Texas has a budget surplus that is itself larger than the entire budget of 24 states, and yet both active school employees and retired educators have been forced this session to come, hat in hand, and beg for the raises they need.
On Friday, the Texas House passed its version of a cost-of-living adjustment for TRS retirees. The biggest increase included is a 6% bump — for retirees who’ve endured a 64% increase in the cost of living since they retired.
Those are crumbs. They’re not enough.
This week, too, the House also passed its version of a pay raise for school employees. Thankfully, after our members and parent supporters wrote more than 1,800 letters, that pay raise now includes support staff. But the raise, at most, amounts to $80 per month.
Those are crumbs. They’re not enough.
We have just 31 days left until this Legislature ends. There has been no action taken on class sizes, school employee workloads, or educator schedules. But the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday will consider designating Oct. 5 as Texas Teachers’ Day.
The Texas House approves its COLA plan. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.
Major bills on school funding, school employee paychecks, and school safety pass through the House. They’re a start, but they’re not enough.
Next week, the House Public Education Committee will hear a couple of important bills on school staffing shortages. They’re a start, but they’re not enough.
AFT President Randi Weingarten testifies before the U.S. House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, and the disingenuous attacks she endured were more than enough.
— Retirement Security
House Passes COLA Plan, Falls Short of Retiree Needs
Texas AFT Retiree Plus member Lydia Carillo-Valdez shares her experiences at a press conference Monday with other retired educators, as well as Rep. John Bryant, Rep. Mihaela Plesa, and Texas AFT Secretary-Treasurer Ray McMurrey.
With a surplus that is itself larger than the entire budgets of 24 states, the state of Texas is poised to pass a meager raise to retired educators’ pensions that, at its most robust, would fail to match the cost of inflation for just the past two years, let alone the past two decades.
On Friday, the Texas House unanimously passed Senate Bill 10 and House Joint Resolution 2, which would provide tiered cost-of-living adjustments based on when an educator retired. While we are appreciative of the bill and the COLAs it would provide, they are nowhere near adequate to provide the relief retirees need.
Several amendments were offered to make SB 10 apply to more retirees and to increase the COLA, but few amendments were adopted.
The House and the Senate have passed different versions of SB 10, which will now have to be negotiated and combined in a conference committee. It is our hope and our next advocacy push that the legislators hammering out the details — as well as those lawmakers negotiating the entire state budget — will put more money toward a true COLA.
“Until we get this right on teacher retirement, we’re going to have a hard time drawing people into this great profession,” said Rep. John Bryant (D-Dallas). “We hear so much about the ‘great state of Texas.’ A state is only as great as its willingness to meet its moral responsibility to those who made us great.”
This Week in the Legislature: School Finance, School Security, & Charter School Expansion
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo and special education teachers Konrad Wert and Andrea Bell meet with staff in Rep. Ken King’s office about House Bill 100 on Tuesday.
The Texas House voted on several of the most consequential public education bills of this session this past week. These bills addressed key issues facing Texas public schools, like school security, school finance, and charter school expansion.
On Wednesday, the Texas House of Representative passed school finance bill HB 100 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian).
One of the most important provisions of this bill is that the basic allotment — the minimum per-student funding — would increase to $6,250 next year and at least $6,300 in 2025.
The bill requires that 50% of the basic allotment increase goes to school employee compensation. The originally filed version of the bill did not include support staff and paraprofessionals, but Texas AFT and members across the state — who wrote more than 1,800 letters on the topic — successfully pushed King to amend the bill to include those employees.
If the current basic allotment of $6,160 per student, in place since 2019, were adjusted for inflation, the amount would be over $7,000 per student today. An amendment to HB 100 proposed by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) would have provided a more substantial increase to the basic allotment than HB 100 by raising it to $6,500, but that amendment failed on a vote of 68-79.
On Wednesday, the House also passed a related bill, HB 11 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), which:
allows teachers to access pre-K programs for their own kids
gives funding to districts to pay for residency and mentorship programs for aspiring educators
provides for waiving the costs of the first administration of educator certification exams for educator candidates
curtails the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) from imposing sanctions for contract abandonment in certain circumstances
increases the amount of compensation for each level of recognition within the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA)
On Monday, the Texas House passed HB 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) and HB 13 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), a pair of bills designed to address school safety.
These two bills, two of House Speaker Dade Phelan’s priority bills this legislative session, include several provisions, like an increased school safety allotment and a requirement for an armed security officer to be stationed on every public school campus.
A provision in HB 13 would incentivize school employees to carry a weapon by providing them a $25,000 stipend if they choose to act as an armed “school sentinel” for their campus.
Neither bill addresses the root cause of gun violence in schools: the availability of firearms. HB 2744, which would raise the legal age to purchase a gun to 21 (a measure widely supported by educators), has yet to be voted on in the House Select Committee on Community Safety.
The House also unanimously passed SB 838 by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), which would require school districts to place silent alert buttons in each classroom.
Charter School Expansion
HB 1707, passed by the House on Thursday, would exempt charter schools from local zoning ordinances, effectively preempting any local control of where and when a new charter campus opens in a community.
Bills to Watch: Staffing Notification Requirements, Ten Commandments in Public Schools
Next week, the House Public Education Committee will consider several bills, including:
HB 1281 by Rep. Jolanda Jones (D-Houston) would require school districts to notify families if a public school or open-enrollment charter school does not have a nurse assigned to the campus during all instructional hours. Supported by Texas AFT.
HB 2694 by Rep. Venton Jones (D-Dallas) would require schools to notify parents and guardians if a campus lacks a full-time nurse, librarian, or school counselor. Supported by Texas AFT.
SB 1515 by Sen. Phil King (R-Weatherford) would require a framed copy of the Ten Commandments to be placed in every public school classroom. Opposed by Texas AFT.
HB 4199 by Rep. Lulu Flores (D-Austin) would require school districts to make menstrual products available for free in restrooms on public school campuses. Supported by Texas AFT.
We are glad to see important staffing bills like HB 1281 and HB 2694 will be heard by the House Public Education Committee, but we remain concerned that the committee’s agenda once again does not include a number of other bills that would directly help our current school staffing crisis, by lowering class sizes, reducing educator workloads, and reducing standardized testing requirements.
AFT President Defends Science-Based, Expert-Approved Pandemic Response
This week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten appeared before the U.S. House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic at the behest of Republican members.
Weingarten was asked to testify on the impact of school closures during the height of the global pandemic that has, to date, killed 6.9 million people worldwide.
Despite AFT frequently advocating for the safe reopening of public schools — with the implementation of mitigation and testing protocols — House Republicans on the subcommittee accused Weingarten of intentionally pushing to keep schools closed.
Several members of the committee took the hearing as an opportunity to attack AFT’s motives for taking recommended safety precautions. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) levied a separate and bizarre homophobic attack, alleging that Weingarten, who is a stepmother and adoptive parent, is “not a mother.”
Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time
📖‘Lackluster so far’: Texas teachers want action on better pay, work conditions. Lawmakers pledged to meaningfully tackle the obstacles that stand in the way of teacher recruitment and retention. An educator shortage and the pandemic put the issue into stark relief. But with the days in Austin dwindling, some teachers said they’re still waiting for their elected officials to walk the walk. (Dallas Morning News, April 24)