April 28, 2023: COLA

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

Friday, April 28, 2023

Crumbs Aren’t Good Enough

Legislative Advocacy Day rally attendees hold signs that read: it is time to use our outside voices. We love your kids, please help us keep our homes. My second job paid for this sign.

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


Those are crumbs. They’re not enough.

If you’ve been looking for the right time to call your representative, send a letter or two, or even come to Austin and remind lawmakers about their real priorities, that time is now.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • 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.

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.”

— Texas Legislature

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. 


The problem: Bills relating to all three topics either didn’t go far enough or would exacerbate existing problems, not alleviate them. Below are a few key highlights, but you can read more about all the bills on our website.


School Finance & Educator Retention

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)


School Safety

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. 


Texas AFT is vehemently opposed to this bill because predatory charter chains will take advantage of lax laws like this to rapidly expand, draining financial resources from our true public schools and disrupting communities. 

We are grateful that three important amendments on charter transparency and accountability were attached to the bill by Reps. Terry Canales, Mary Gonzalez, and Gina Hinojosa.

— Texas Legislature

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.

You can register your position on any of these bills through the end of the meeting Tuesday via the House’s online comments portal.


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. 

We encourage all school employees and parents to contact Chairman Brad Buckley and encourage him to give these bills a hearing before it’s too late. 

— Event

Educator Appreciation Day: A Call for Action

Educator Appreciation Day: A Call for Action

6 p.m. CT, Wednesday, May 3

Facebook Live

The clock is ticking on this legislative session, and we need to send a message that we want raises from this Legislature, not CRUMBS.

 Join us on Facebook Live at 6 p.m. CT, Wednesday, May 3, Educator Appreciation Day, to take action together. We’re calling our representatives and dialing for the dollars we deserve.

— National

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.


Weingarten agreed to testify before the subcommittee to set the record straight and end the scapegoating of educators and their union

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.”

Recommended Reading

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) 


📖Texas bills banning diversity programs to protect white privilege will damage the state’s economy. University deans already complain that the Legislature’s anti-intellectualism makes recruiting the world’s top minds to Texas difficult. But ending tenure and fining professors for breaking with white supremacist orthodoxy will make it nearly impossible. (Houston Chronicle, April 24) 

📖Texas GOP eyes separation of church and state in schools after Supreme Court prayer ruling. Republican lawmakers are viewing a 2022 Supreme Court decision on prayer in schools as an invitation to chip away at the separation of church and state, with legislation advancing in each chamber of the Legislature to that effect. (San Antonio Express-News, April 24)