April 8, 2022: More student loan relief on the way; Patrick introduces divisive agenda for next session; SBOE adds new courses

Dan Patrick stands in suite and red tie at a podium with American and Texas Flags behind him

With interim charges, Lt. Gov. Patrick eyes legislation on book bans, ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released
interim charges for the Texas Senate this week, a highlight of the destructive culture wars he intends to pursue in the next legislative session in January 2023.

State senators sent Patrick some 600 policy recommendations to study as interim charges. The 84 assigned by Patrick reflect his priorities for the session.

Patrick directed the Senate Education Committee to review policies regarding reading materials in school libraries to ensure that they “are grade, age, and developmentally appropriate.” He also directed the committee to “make recommendations to enable parents to exert a greater influence on their child’s learning environment.” 

In a campaign email sent to his supporters in conjunction with the release of the interim charges, Patrick stated that he intends to pass a law that mirrors the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which limits any mention of LGBTQ+ issues in kindergarten through third grade and was recently passed in Florida. Patrick explained that the issue would be addressed under the topic of “parental rights.” 

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo was quoted in a Texas Tribune article on the Don’t Say Gay law this week: 

Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, said there is “certainly nothing at the state level” specifically about LGBTQ education in elementary schools. “What I think they’re referring to is not the curriculum, it’s not the formal education pieces,” Capo said. “There are elementary schools that are a safe and affirming school, which is a school that says, ‘LGBT families and students are actually welcome here and are going to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect.’”….Capo worries Texas teachers may even be targeted for having a picture of their spouse on their desk.

Patrick also charged the Education Committee with investigating “how some cities and counties are prohibiting the expansion of charter schools through local ordinances.” This was attempted last session and would remove what little authority local elected officials have to determine where charters build their community. The committee will also monitor the implementation of key education laws passed during legislative sessions last year.

Education groups call for inclusion of more ethnic studies as SBOE works toward new social studies TEKS

On Wednesday, Texas AFT participated in a press conference with allied Mexican-American studies organizations calling on the State Board of Education (SBOE) to provide an equitable education that prepares students for the future, allowing them to learn the history and cultures of Indigenous/Native communities, people of color, LGBTQIA and other communities as we become a more global society. Texas AFT President Zeph Capo spoke of the need for academic freedom and trust in our community of professional educators.

Photo: Texas AFT President Zeph Capo calls for academic freedom at Wednesday’s SBOE press conference.

The backdrop to the calls from these organizations is the ongoing work on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies, including the implementation of SB 3, the law passed in September designed to further restrict discussions of diversity and inclusion issues in Texas classrooms. Working groups currently are reviewing content for those TEKS, which are expected to come before the board for adoption in November.

In its meeting Wednesday, the SBOE directed TEA to convene workgroups to create two new ethnic studies courses in addition to the existing Mexican American Studies and African American Studies courses.

The board also received an update on the Generation 27 charter applications. Nine applicants have made it through the process to capacity interviews, occurring the week of May 9. Texas AFT will be carefully reviewing these applicants, will monitor capacity interviews, and will provide SBOE members with our concerns about any poor-performing charter schools that are attempting to build where they are neither wanted nor needed. Texas AFT will also work with SBOE members to ensure they have information to see how new charter schools negatively impact our students, teachers, local school districts, and taxpayers.

In its meetings this week, the SBOE also discussed graduation requirements, career and technical education, and technology applications.

Graphic of two hands holding a map with dotted lines navigating through buildings. Text: Student loans are a maze. We're partnering to guide the way.

Biden administration extends pause on student loan payments

The Biden administration has extended the pause for federal student loan payments, interest, and collections, until August. 31.

The move follows other extensions for the pause, which was instituted in March 2020 to help borrowers impacted economically by the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Education also is creating a process to reset loans for some 7 million borrowers in default that would allow them to start anew in repaying the loans.

As a Texas AFT member, you also can pursue debt relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program with Summer—a benefits partner that can guide you through the process for free. Register now for a Summer webinar on April 12 that will give a comprehensive overview to get PSLF relief.

Join other Texas AFT school employees and allied parents for a weekly Text Mixer to win the May 24 runoffs!

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

Texas AFT endorses Dudding for state comptroller

Texas AFT has endorsed Janet Dudding for state comptroller for the Democratic runoff on May 24. The winner of the runoff will face incumbent Republican Glenn Hegar in November. Watch Dudding outline why she’s the best candidate to lead the state’s chief financial agencies.

New state website ties together early childhood services

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has launched the Early Childhood Texas website, a streamlined resource for Texas parents to access information about available early childhood services available through TWC, Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Department of State Health Services, and Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The website is intended to serve as a one-stop site to connect Texas parents with access to a variety of free or low-cost services and resources. The Early Childhood Texas website offers Texans information and resources in the following areas:

  • Health & Development: child development, including resources for children with special needs, nutrition, health tips, and healthcare

  • Parenting: child safety, parenting tips and support, and at-home learning activities

  • Child Care & Education: child care and after school programs, pre-kindergarten, Head Start and Early Childhood Special Education

  • Eligibility Programs: state-sponsored programs and assistance opportunities for Texas families

photo of woman driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a phone to her ear

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Our benefits partner, Horace Mann, wants to remind all educators that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Distracted driving is anything that diverts your attention from the task of safe driving, including taking your eyes off the road (visual), your mind off the road (cognitive), or your hands off the wheel (manual). Remember to recognize and eliminate any distractions to help make our roads safer for all.

We should all be doing our part to drive safely, but accidents will still happen. We can help ensure you, your passengers, and your vehicle are properly protected with auto coverage that meets your unique needs. Get a quote or contact your Horace Mann agent to learn more today!

P.S. You can help your students learn about distracted driving this month with these free, downloadable lesson plans!

Purple to orange gradient background with text: Mindfulness Essentials

New ‘Mindfulness Essentials’ series

The Bridges Institute is returning with our Mindfulness Essentials series in 2022! They began on March 23, and we will be offering six sessions every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. CPE credit will be issued for each hour attended.

Participants will also receive a link to join weekly, free 15-minute guided practices on ZoomTuesdays at 7:15 a.m. and Wednesdays at 12 p.m. 

Click here to register.