April 29, 2022: Tell us what makes you feel appreciated; TRS healthcare rates won’t rise; Our local wage campaigns are firing at all cylinders; House hearing update on public ed

Tuesday is Teacher Appreciation Day!

Let us know what makes you feel appreciated and be entered in drawing to win $450 gift card

Thanks to all our educators who work so hard each day to inspire and nurture our students. Texas AFT is here to support you, and we appreciate everything you do. Enjoy the day, and the week!

A teacher with long brown hair reaches down with a red marker and discusses a paper with a young girl. A boy with glasses looks on.

That said, we also know that you can’t pay the bills on appreciation, and it is a remarkably difficult time to be an educator—especially in Texas.

So we want to hear from you: What would make you feel truly appreciated? Submit your thoughts and a selfie through our quick form and you’ll be entered to win a $450 gift card. 

If that seems like an oddly specific amount, it is. $450 is the stated average that Texas teachers pay each year out of their own pockets to buy classroom supplies—a situation brought to you by Texas’ rank of 45th in the nation for per-student education funding. 

We’ll share the stories we get throughout the day on May 3 through our social media accounts, and we’ll be sending an anonymized summary to the TEA Teacher Vacancy Task Force, which sure seems like it could use some ideas on filling the 10,000 vacancies across the state

Share your thoughts and your photo by noon on May 1 to be entered into the drawing!

Infusion of federal funds helps TRS keep ActiveCare premiums the same or lower next year

State officials directed $425 million in federal pandemic aid to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas on Thursday—a move that allowed the agency’s Board of Trustees to announce that healthcare premiums for some 500,000 TRS-ActiveCare members will stay the same or decline in some cases for 2022-2023. Without the infusion, rates likely would have risen.

In response to SB 1444, which was passed by the Legislature last year, TRS also has moved to a regional rating system for premiums, so that TRS-ActiveCare premiums reflect the price of healthcare in a given region. This move was intended to keep more people in the plan. If premiums are not competitive with local healthcare costs, school districts are incentivized to opt out of TRS-ActiveCare and offer their district an alternative healthcare plan. Regional healthcare prices vary depending on a variety of factors, including the number of doctors in the area, ability to access care, and the historical cost of healthcare in that region.

On Thursday, the TRS Board of Trustees approved premium rates for each of the 20 regions for the 2022-2023 plan year, which begins in September. The funds were apportioned in such a way that no public educator in any of the 20 regions will see a TRS-ActiveCare premium increase.

Look out for a full breakdown of both days of the TRS Board meeting in next week’s edition of the Hotline.

Texas AFT local wage campaigns push for higher school employee salaries

With a crowd of people in the background, two teacher lean down to add blue borders to the red letters of a giant paper sign reading

The San Antonio Alliance held a “Community Town Hall, BBQ, and Art Build” to prepare for a May 16 rally calling for higher pay, smaller class sizes, and a focus on health and safety.

Our recent report—“The Lost Decade: Texas schools are underfunded & facing devastating staffing shortages”—showed how school employee wages have remained stagnant (and in many cases decreased) over the last decade. The solution involves more public education funding from the state. But that doesn’t mean local school districts can’t start taking steps now to retain school employers with higher wages.

Texas AFT has assisted our local unions in taking wage demands directly to their superintendents and school boards. Armed with our resources on The Lost Decade report and our rallying call for respect with higher salaries and more manageable workloads, these unions are stepping up locally.

A man in a red shirt with a crowd behind him holds a sign saying

Education Austin rallied last night at Austin ISD’s School Board meeting protesting plans to cut 632 positions to help fund a lackluster proposal for a $1,000 increase in base teacher pay and a 2% midpoint salary increase. The district proposes raising the minimum hourly pay to $16/hr. But Education Austin has countered that since the Austin metro area is one of the least affordable places to live in the country, the minimum district wage should be $20/hr.

When Socorro AFT heard that the district was only recommending a 2% pay raise, the union knew school employees wouldn’t stand for it. When Socorro AFT surveyed 1,000 district employees recently, 90% said they need stabilization in their financial status, 81.6% said a pay raise would help achieve financial stability, and 54% said they would consider leaving their job in education. “They made comments like ‘I had to file bankruptcy,’” said Socorro AFT President Veronica Hernandez. “Other said, ‘I can’t even afford a college fund for my own children’ and ‘I have to live paycheck to paycheck.’”

Socorro AFT is countering that suggestion and asking for a 10% pay raise, a $2,000 retention stipend, and a starting minimum wage of $15/hr.

Piece of paper with large red headline of

Alliance-AFT, our union for Dallas ISD, is preparing for a massive turnout at its May 26 School Board meeting. Under the banner of “Our Heroes Deserve a Living Wage,” members will be telling the School Board that educators need an 8% raise and a minimum $15/hr wage for all employees.

Against the backdrop of news that Houston ISD has a $300 million surplus after overbudgeting for payroll, the Houston Federation of Teachers is rallying members to ask for “Respect and Dignity” with a 10% pay raise, retention bonuses, and other pay increases

Spring AFT is petitioning for an 8% pay raise for employees and a process to reduce workload.

Brownsville Educators Standing Together (BEST AFT) continues to use its #WeDeserveBetter campaign to push for a $4,000 across the board pay raise for all certified personnel and a $15/hr minimum wage for all classified employees. The union was victorious in getting the $15/hr summer rate for those employees after the administration recommended $12/hr.

The above is just a sample of dozens of wage campaigns across the state. Stay tuned to the Hotline for more local news on efforts to raise educator salaries.

House committee members hear update from TEA commissioner, query Morath on educator pay and workplace issues

Photo: Education Commissioner Mike Morath provides an update on public education in Texas before the House Public Education Committee.

On Tuesday, the Texas House Public Education Committee heard an update on public education from Education Commissioner Mike Morath and queried him on issues around educator pay and retention. It’s clear that these issues are a priority for many House representatives. Their questions and Morath’s answers laid the groundwork for legislators to follow-up with other House members and their staff about the findings of “The Lost Decade”, a joint report from Texas AFT and Every Texan on the urgency of legislative intervention to increase school-employee pay and reduce workplace demands.

  • Rep. Gary VanDeaver asked several questions about the teacher shortage and reading academies.
  • Rep. Brad Buckley asked about how to reduce the administrative demands on teachers during the school day—how to “get back to the basics” and “create more time for education.”
  • Rep. Alma Allen advocated for educators in regards to the tremendous demands of Reading Academies; in response, Commissioner Morath suggested that it’s an issue the Legislature should consider addressing.
  • Rep. Mary González asked about the impact of assessments on educators and students.

The commissioner said he was not prepared to answer most of these questions in detail, but he acknowledged their salience and asked members to submit their questions and related data requests to him before the committee’s upcoming “workforce hearing.” The date of this hearing has yet to be announced. Stay tuned for more information about the hearing and opportunities for advocacy.


Morath spent most of his official presentation acknowledging the impact of the pandemic and highlighting learning loss trends. According to Morath, the last 10 years of gains in student achievement were wiped out during the pandemic. Commissioner Morath suggested that the state has already enacted effective interventions that need to be allowed more time for their results to be observed, and that the implementation of legislation addressing these interventions will be taken up in an upcoming interim Public Education Committee hearing.


After Morath’s update, the committee heard testimony on two interim committee charges to study the impact of immigration on schools and the status of public education investment funds in Russia.


Migrants in Texas public schools is a political wedge issue and there is no pressing action needed by the Legislature. Committee members heard testimony that Russian investments—which eventually will be divested—cost the Permanent School Fund (PSF) nearly $250 million. Officials say they can’t presently divest the funds because Russian investments have been removed from the markets. They also stressed that the loss is less than 1% of the PSF’s investment program.

Texas AFT will continue closely monitoring and participating in interim committee hearings to advance your interests and lay the groundwork for change in the 2023 legislative session.

Texting with Beto!

Our special guest for our weekly Text Mixer on Tuesday will be gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke. We started the virtual weekly Text Mixer to help our endorsed candidates win the May 24th runoffs!

Beto O'Rourke in blue suit and dark tie on gold background next to blue background with text: Teacher Appreciation Text Bank

The mixers will run every Tuesday, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Our kids need passionate, permanent teachers in their classrooms. Let’s do it by electing educators committed to creating reasonable workloads, stopping the backslide in wages, and more. Just bring your favorite drink and a charged phone or laptop and join us on Zoom.

Sign up here. Whoever sends the most texts by May 24 will receive a $100 gift card!

On aqua blue background, a Horace Mann logo of a outline of an owl on a branch. Text next to bubble quote with a heart: Heartfelt thanks! Teacher Appreciation Week Sweepstakes, Enter Now!

Teachers make a difference in the lives of their students and the communities they serve every single day, and Teacher Appreciation Week is just one chance to celebrate all that you do.

As a way to say thank you, long-time corporate supporter, Horace Mann, is giving away $2,500 in gift cards in our Teacher Appreciation Week Sweepstakes. Enter now through May 6 for a chance to win a $100 gift card to your choice of Target, Starbucks, Lowe’s or Home Depot. We’ll draw five winners daily from May 2 through May 6, for a total of 25 prizes.

Enter here!

See link for official rules. No purchase necessary to enter or win. Void where prohibited. This Promotion is open to individuals who are at least 18 years of age at the time of entry and who are legal residents of the United States and/or the District of Columbia, excluding those living in or who are legal residents of Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, U.S. Territories and Possessions and where otherwise prohibited by law.

Early voting ends Tuesday for May 7 elections

Early voting ends Tuesday, May 3, for the May 7 local and state ballot elections. Many communities across Texas will hold local elections—including for school boards. But all registered Texans will have a choice to vote on two proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that address school property tax reductions and exemptions.