Aug. 11, 2023: We take care of us

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

Friday, August 11, 2023

People read books in chairs and on the floor.

Different perspective of attendees reading books at the meeting.

Members of the Houston Federation of Teachers, along with community members, parents, and students, participate in a read-in before the Houston ISD Board of Managers meeting Thursday, Aug. 10. The protest was in response to state-installed Superintendent Mike Miles’ plans to close district libraries and transform them into detention centers.

We take care of us.

Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. By taking care of our needs as employees, we ensure our students have what they need to succeed. Lawmakers in Austin have refused to give you a pay raise, just like they’ve refused to take up bills that would improve your day-to-day working environment.

In a five-month regular session and two special sessions, our leaders let us down.

  • Did they pass a bill to keep your class sizes under control? No.
  • Did they pass a bill to reduce the amount of standardized testing our students go through? No.
  • Did they pass a bill to make you safer from violence in your classroom? No.
  • Did they increase your school’s funding to make any improvements whatsoever? No.

We’ve made ourselves quite clear about the issues driving K-12 and higher education employees out of their jobs. So far, lawmakers haven’t listened. This fall, we won’t give them a choice. 

Join the largest statewide effort of public school employees in Texas to document the real issues in our schools. Sign up for our Strive to Thrive working conditions project! Each week from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, we’ll email you a form to track certain conditions affecting your job, like the amount of time you had for planning, grading, lunch, or breaks, or the safety concerns you experienced.

What you tell us fuels our fight, at the national, state, and local levels. Because even if the people in charge won’t take care of us, we will. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • The 88th Legislature is (mostly) over. Do you know how your representative voted on the issues that matter to you and your school? 
  • A raise for TRS retirees is on the ballot this November. Now we know where. 
  • Stand with the Texas AFL-CIO in calling on Gov. Abbott to add heat protections for Texas workers to a special session call. 
  • Apply by Aug. 25 to one of TEA’s advisory committees on curriculum standards.

— Texas Legislature

Do you know how your representative voted? Find out.

Voting records on two issues — school vouchers and school funding — for three members of the Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment: Chair Brad Buckley (R-Killeen), Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls). Find these votes and more for all legislators on our new website. 

With a $33 billion surplus available, many educators across this state had high hopes for the 88th Legislature. Yet, here we are, one regular session and two special sessions later with no basic allotment increase and no guaranteed pay raises for teachers and school staff. 

Given those results, as well as the specter of a third special session this fall, Texas AFT believes it’s critical that school employees across the state understand how their own representatives have voted on public education. 

To ensure this, we have created a new webpage that allows you to: 

  1. Look up your state representative
  2. See their votes on seven critical public education issues in the regular legislative session
  3. Call their office directly to voice your opinion

Spreading the Word

We encourage you to share this site with your friends, family, and colleagues. We must keep growing our reach before the special session. To help, we’ve set up friend-to-friend texting and social media sharing options in our tool Impactive. 

Click here to share the message with people in your network. Never used Impactive before? You can get all the info you need and your account set up at one of our upcoming Unpacking the Legislature events on Zoom. The next session is Aug. 23.

— Retirement Security

Retired Educator COLA set as Proposition 9 on November Ballot

Last Friday, the ballot order for the Nov. 7  statewide constitutional amendment election, which will include a vote on a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to retired educator pensions, was set by the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The order of the 14 propositions on the ballot this November was determined by randomly selecting the propositions out of a hat.

The amendment that will provide the TRS COLA will be Proposition 9. 

We’ve got the full list of propositions that you can vote on this November on our website, along with information on how you can help Texas AFT Retiree Plus members turn out the vote for a COLA. 

— Event

Texas Tribune Festival logo.

The wait is over — the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival program is here!

The full program is out now for Texas’ breakout politics and policy event, The Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 21-23 in downtown Austin. Explore the program featuring more than 100 unforgettable conversations coming to TribFest. Panel topics include the biggest 2024 races and what’s ahead, how big cities in Texas and around the country are changing, the integrity of upcoming elections and so much more.

Texas AFT is a proud sponsor of this year’s Tribfest and reminds you that Texas educators can get discounted tickets to the event. See the full program and buy your tickets.

— Worker Rights

Texas AFL-CIO Demands Action to Save Workers’ Lives

Last week, the Texas AFl-CIO launched a new letter campaign to push Gov. Greg Abbott to include statewide heat protections for Texas workers in the upcoming special session call.

This summer, Texas workers have been exposed to some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Texas. In these types of working conditions, basic safety provisions like rest breaks, protective equipment, clean drinking water, and emergency first aid are critical provisions to ensure safe workplaces.

Currently, no state or federal law protects workers laboring in extreme weather conditions or gives them the right to take a break when they need to drink water or rest for a moment in the shade. In response, Texas cities have implemented these types of protections, but these local rules will be rescinded on Sept. 1 as a result of HB 2127, the “Death Star” bill by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), which preempts or bans certain local ordinances. 

To prevent impending future deaths, Abbott must act now and add legislation that requires rest and water breaks to a special session call. With a few clicks, you can send your own letter to the governor telling him to respect workers. Click here to send a letter now.

— Horace Mann

Long-time corporate supporter Horace Mann is giving away 50 prize packages! Enter for your chance to win up to a $250 gift card from Teachers Pay Teachers, Target, or Amazon, as well as a classroom supplies pack! 

10 winners will be announced daily from Aug. 14-18.

— Texas Education Agency

Aug. 25 Deadline: Apply to a TEA Advisory Committee

Just because the Legislature is not in session (for now), that doesn’t mean the policy work stops. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is always in the process of revising its rules and regulations for our Texas classrooms. Frequently, TEA seeks educator involvement. It’s critical that our members participate in these ongoing conversations so that our districts, teachers, and students can strive to thrive — not just survive.

Currently, TEA is taking applications for Teacher Pedagogy, ELAR Content, and Math Content Educator Standards Advisory Committees. These committees will work to draft educator standards that are responsive to recent legislation, including HB 159 (related to instructing students with disabilities) and SB 226 (related to virtual instruction), from the 2021 legislative session, and HB 1605 (instructional materials), from the 2023  legislative session. TEA is currently seeking committee member applications from the State Board for Educator Certification, professional organizations, educator preparation programs, teacher organizations and unions, and other key stakeholders to ensure each standards advisory committee represents a group of highly qualified educators. The application submission period is open now and ends Aug. 25, 2023.


The application provides information about each committee in addition to a timeline for standards drafting. All applications should be submitted via the application link above on or before the Aug. 25 deadline. For questions about the application, the application process, or standards drafting, please contact DeMarco Pitre with TEA.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Future uncertain for Texas teachers after legislative gridlock. After months of gridlock in the state legislature, the future is still uncertain for Texas teachers heading into the new school year. Efforts to increase funding for districts failed this spring. And on top of that, one of the governor’s top priorities has been a school voucher program, which many educators say could negatively impact public school districts. (Fox 7 Austin, Aug. 7) 


📖 Mike Miles’ plans for Houston ISD have been done before in Texas. Here’s what happened. The experience at Sam Houston Collegiate Prep and two other long-struggling Texas campuses run by Third Future Schools is a potential indicator of what’s to come for thousands of HISD families, who will see the same education strategies implemented at their campuses this school year. (Houston Landing, Aug. 9) 

📖 As Miles dismantles HISD libraries, data shows book checkouts soared in 2022 under expanded staffing. Data shows that book checkout rates skyrocketed across Houston ISD last school year as district leaders made a push to revitalize long-neglected school libraries with better staffing, new books and technology carts equipped with robotics materials and 3D printers. Now, the new state-appointed administration plans to dismantle many of the newly rejuvenated and heavily used campus libraries. (Houston Chronicle, Aug. 9)