Aug. 25, 2023: The Rise of Educational Intimidation

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

Friday, August 25, 2023

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The Rise of Educational Intimidation

House Bill 900, the Legislature’s book-banning bill passed this year, was in court last week. A U.S. district judge in Austin heard arguments from the Texas book sellers suing the state over the new law that, among other things, charges those vendors to rate materials sold to school libraries. 

That judge could decide by the end of month whether to grant a temporary injunction against HB 900, which is set to take effect Sept. 1. We know the consequences; we’re seeing them already, in shuttered libraries and diverse books taken off shelves. 

A fact that’s not exactly reassuring: we’re not alone here in Texas. In the past couple of years, state lawmakers introduced 392 “educational intimidation bills,” according to a new report from PEN America

“PEN America considers a piece of legislation an educational intimidation bill if it contains at least one educational intimidation provision, which we define as specific and recurring legal mechanisms with the foreseeable effect of chilling expression in educational settings. A handful of these bills apply to higher education or contain provisions targeting public libraries, but the vast majority target K–12 schools.”

Sound familiar? Now would be a good time to see how your state representative voted on HB 900 and other public education bills — and give them a call to discuss it.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • If you or someone you know is looking to join an educator group this year, here’s our pitch to you. 
  • We preview a sure-to-be-spicy State Board of Education meeting next week. 
  • Drowning in paperwork? Feel unsafe at school? Too busy to actually teach? Sign up for our working conditions project and tell us. 
  • Student loan repayment will start soon. Make sure you’re ready with our resources for members.

— Membership

‘Which Union Should I Join?’

Every year when school starts, we see and hear the same question from educators and staff: “Which organization should I join?”

There are a number of educator organizations across Texas, and we know it may be confusing on which one you should join. All offer similar (critical) benefits like $8 million liability insurance, and the statewide organizations agree on a great number of public education issues. 

So what’s the difference? And why join Texas AFT? Here’s our pitch and our promise to you as a proudly “aggressive” group of public school employees.

Know Your Rights: Joining a Union

You have a right to join a union. Our guide helps you understand that designation and what “right to work” really means. Get the guide.


Preview: State Board of Education’s August Meeting

The State Board of Education (SBOE) will hold its regular meeting in Austin next week. We will be closely watching several items, with special focus on those related to proposed science textbooks and charter schools. 

The meeting will begin Aug. 29 with a public hearing on Proclamation 2024, which includes proposed instructional materials to meet the revised K-12 science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that will be the required curriculum standards beginning with the 2024-2025 school year. The teaching of certain scientific facts like evolution and climate change has a complicated and problematic history in Texas. Independent reviews of our state science standards have rarely been favorable, especially on these topics.  

We will also be watching the board’s action on the “no-contact” rule for the charter application process. Texas AFT has provided testimony against amending this rule, which bars charter school applicants, or those acting on behalf of the applicant, from contacting those parties integral to the approval process, including the SBOE. The no-contact rule reinforces the integrity of the application process by ensuring there is no undue influence that could raise concerns about ethics and that the process is conducted with as much transparency as possible.

— Working Conditions

Together we thrive logo on dark blue background.

Strive to Thrive: Join the Largest Effort to Track Real Issues in Texas Schools

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.

— Bridges Fellowship 

We’re Hiring: Student Fellowship Available

Texas AFT is looking to develop the next generation of policy and communications experts in the labor and pro-public education movement. 

Each year, Texas AFT recruits hardworking undergraduate students to join the Bridges Fellowship. The Fellowship is named in honor of the late Linda Bridges, the president of Texas AFT for over two decades and a titan in the Texas labor movement.

Headshot of Kennedy Quintanilla

“Working as a Bridges Fellow, I witnessed firsthand the power of collective action in shaping better educational opportunities in Texas. This opportunity gave me incredible exposure to labor, organizing, and policy work that I will use for the rest of my career.”

Kennedy Quintanilla

Communications and Narrative Coordinator, Texas for All

2020-2021 Bridges Fellow

Bridges Fellows are integral to Texas AFT’s legislative, electoral, and general communications strategy. Bridges Fellows will get hands-on experience doing consequential work to further the goals of our organization. Our fellows must be committed to helping improve the lives of our members and the families and students we serve across the state. 

We are currently looking to hire two new fellows to join the 2023-2024 class: one public policy fellow and one communications fellow. Learn more and apply now!

— Event

Join Texas AFT at the Texas Tribune Festival for Free

Texas AFT is a proud sponsor of this year’s Texas Tribune Festival in downtown Austin, Sept. 21-23. The programs features more than 100 unforgettable conversations on topics including:

  • the biggest 2024 races and what’s ahead
  • how cities in Texas and around the country are changing
  • the integrity of upcoming elections
  • the threat of school privatization
  • and so much more!

We want to bring our members with us. Texas AFT has 10 tickets to give away to our members interested in attending Tribfest. Enter now for your chance to claim one!

— Student Debt

You’re Not A-Loan: AFT Student Debt Benefits.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Biden Administration’s plan to cancel $10,000-20,000 in student debt for all federal student loan borrowers, the Department of Education has taken steps to provide 804,000 borrowers with automatic loan forgiveness. 

But there are several updates you need to be aware of.

The COVID-19 pandemic payment pause for student loans ends Aug. 31, 2023, and your last chance to have previously ineligible payments on any federal loans count toward PSLF ends on Dec. 31, 2023. Now is the time to make sure you are prepared for student loan payments to resume and that you’re taking advantage of all available debt-relief options. 

Here are two AFT member benefits you can use right now to prepare yourself:

Recommended Reading

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

📖 HISD superintendent Mike Miles mandates classroom doors stay open, raising safety concerns. A new mandate from Superintendent Mike Miles requires most educators across the district to teach with their classroom doors open during instruction time when school starts next week, a measure that some parents and teachers say peels back an important layer of safety. (Houston Chronicle, Aug. 24) 


📖 State Rep. Jay Dean: Invest in world-class education, not school vouchers. State Rep. Jay Dean wants the state to go back to the drawing board regarding school funding. “We have got to get this pub ed thing right,” he said. “I think if we can get that done, we will have had a very successful (legislative) session.” (Longview News-Journal, Aug. 18) 

📖 Editorial: SAISD cut 27 librarians and 28 social workers. This needs to be reversed. Every school should have a librarian and a social worker, but that’s not happening at San Antonio Independent School District. This is because Superintendent Jaime Aquino gave his district’s 92 principals autonomy in making campus budget decisions. (San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 23)