Aug. 18, 2023: The Long-Awaited Committee Report

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

Friday, August 18, 2023

Reading opens the world. Will Texas let it?

The latest issue of AFT’s American Educator magazine is a special one, dedicated to addressing literacy, learning loss, and loneliness among our students. The goal is to lay out strategies — proven by research and practiced by educators nationwide — to help kids and communities thrive.

And, as AFT President Randi Weingarten says, “it starts with reading, the foundation for all academic learning.” 

That’s a particularly jarring contrast with what’s happening in Texas public schools. 

In Houston ISD, the state-installed superintendent has laid off librarians and transformed libraries into detention centers for students in his “priority” schools — schools placed on that priority list, purportedly, to improve students’ reading proficiency. 

Other districts, meanwhile, are scrambling to respond to the Legislature’s book-banning bill, HB 900, passed this spring. Booksellers are suing the state over the bill, but that hasn’t stopped consequences. Fort Worth ISD has shuttered its libraries through the end of the month to inventory all collections. Katy ISD, meanwhile, halted all book purchases and moved newly acquired books to a warehouse.

Our students, educators, and communities deserve real solutions and schools that help them thrive. We need to make sure every school board member, legislator, and elected official understands that’s what we expect. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • The Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment has released its recommendations. We break them down.
  • STAAR scores have been released and show continuing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Have you written your check to your child’s charter school to join the … VIP car pick-up line?
  • Mark your calendars: Next week, we’re getting out the vote for a TRS retiree COLA and taking a deep dive into the Select Committee report. 
  • Will we see you at the Texas Tribune Festival? Get your discounted tickets.

— Texas Legislature

Unpacking the Select Committee Report

Rep. Gina Hinojosa did not sign on to the House Select Committee’s report, instead releasing her own recommendations, outlined in the report’s appendices. Chief among her concerns: that teacher and school staff raises will once again be held hostage by private school voucher proponents.

In June, Speaker Dade Phelan formed the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment. 

The charge of the committee’s 15 members was to make recommendations for the following topics: 

  • Ensuring all Texas youths enjoy equal educational opportunity and the freedom to obtain a quality education, regardless of circumstance. 
  • Improving outcomes for Texas public school students and meaningfully supporting educators and educational institutions. 
  • Modernizing assessment and accountability measures for Texas schools educating K-12 students. 

The committee published its initial report on Aug. 11 containing a broad range of recommendations. The report also contained links to the nearly 3,000 public comments sent in on the committee’s topics. 

So what’s in it, and what’s not? We’ve got the breakdown on our website.

— Event

Schools in Crisis: Unpacking the Legislature

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 6 p.m. CT

On Wednesday, we will go deep into the recommendations from the Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment — and make sure other educators know how their reps voted on the issues that matter most. Join us on Zoom and help stay ready before a potential special session on our public schools.

— Standardized Testing

Two graphs of the S-T-A-A-R scores, showing the increase of students meeting grade level in RLA and Math after covid,

STAAR Results Reveal Continued Post-COVID Improvements

This Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency released results from the 2023 STAAR test, including data aggregated at the state, region, district, and campus levels. Overall, the data showed marked increase in math scores, which had dipped significantly in the years since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. The data revealed continued, stable recovery in student math, science, and social studies scores.

This year’s STAAR results are the first batch released after the exam was significantly redesigned and moved online.

Despite significant changes to the exam in the wake of the already turbulent pandemic period, students performed better than many expected. That said, these improvements have not occurred equally, and certain subgroups and specific districts have had varied results.

— Charter Scams

10 Thoughts About Austin Charter School’s ‘VIP Car Line’

Over the weekend, a parent on Reddit reported that their daughter’s BASIS charter school in Austin was promoting “exclusive opportunities” for donors, including access to a “VIP car line, ensuring a seamless and efficient dismissal process for your child.” 

We have several thoughts … like, if a parent purchases this VIP access, will it apply to their child’s charter school’s luxury horse ranch too?

— Event

Tuesday: Get Out the Vote for COLA with Texas AFT Retiree Plus

Texas AFT Retiree Plus is fighting to pass Proposition 9, which will provide an increase to retired educators’ pensions, this November. 

Texas AFT Retiree Plus will be hosting its next virtual campaign event Tuesday, Aug. 22. 

We will be joined by Terry Bermea, the Executive Director of Battleground Texas. Bermea will share information about voter registration, the implementation of new voting laws in Texas, and information about voter protection efforts. 

Afterwards, we will contact Texas voters and encourage them to double-check their voter registration status. The last day to register to vote in this election is Oct. 10. Click here to RSVP for the event.

— 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 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.

— Event

Join us for the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival!

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 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 and students can get discounted tickets to the event: $75 for educators and $50 for students. See the full program and buy your tickets.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Public schools will have armed security — peace officers or not — under new Texas law. Area school districts are scurrying to find enough trained police officers — or other people they can trust to carry a gun — to comply with a new state law requiring armed security at every campus. (San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 10) 


📖 Mike Miles gains power as Houston ISD Board of Managers approves major policy changes, union files grievances and community members protest. State-appointed superintendent Mike Miles gained more power Thursday night, but he didn’t get everything he asked for. Also this week, the Houston ISD teachers’ union filed grievances seeking to pause the reforms in about 60 of the 85 targeted schools, and community members organized a “read in” protest at the board meeting. (Houston Public Media, Aug. 11) 

📖 Is There Any Chance Ken Paxton Will Be Convicted? Las Vegas oddsmakers, so far, are not taking any bets on the likely removal from office of the impeached Texas attorney general. That may be because, as one Republican gadfly guesstimated, there’s a 99.9% chance that the infamous Ken Paxton will be back at work by the end of September. (Texas Monthly, Aug. 8)