You can find all news, updates and resources addressing COVID-19 here on our website.
TEA Announces STAAR Test Won’t Be Used for Accountability Purposes
While Texas AFT is pleased the STAAR test won’t be used for A-F rankings, we remain concerned that the tests will be administered at all. We disagree with TEA’s reasoning that STAAR testing should proceed so that parents and educators can “gauge the impact of the pandemic on education.” Educators and students have lost enough instructional time over the course of this pandemic, why waste more of it prepping for a test that was never designed as a diagnostic tool? In the coming months, Texas AFT will continue to fight the stranglehold high-stakes testing has on our public schools, students, teachers, and school districts.
Houston Federation of Teachers Appoints New Leadership
This week, Houston Federation of Teachers Executive Council appointed Jackie Anderson, who had served as secretary-treasurer for the union, as president to fill out the remainder of Zeph Capo’s term.
Capo left his post at HFT to serve as the president of Texas AFT, the state federation. Under Capo’s leadership, HFT worked to improve the salary schedule, fought off a state takeover of Houston ISD, held back planned increases to healthcare costs, and recently won a historic election to be the voice for HISD educators.
In addition to Anderson’s move to union president, Executive Vice President Andy Dewey was selected to fill the secretary-treasurer vacancy. Daniel Santos, formerly At-Large Position 2, was appointed as executive vice president.
Recap: Transparency in Texas Charter Schools
The state of Texas spends $3.6 billion each year to support a second school system, made up of privately administered, but publicly funded charter schools. As part of #ProtectPublicSchools Week, Texas AFT hosted a Facebook Live town hall with Texas legislators who have filed bills relating to charter school transparency and accountability. As we head into a legislative session where state lawmakers will have to make difficult budget decisions, we must make it clear that Texas is making a bad investment in costly, unaccountable charter schools. You can watch the recording of the town hall on Facebook or Youtube.
Good Bills of the Week: Reining in Charter Schools in the Texas Legislature
Each of the three lawmakers who participated in Texas AFT’s town hall, Transparency in Texas Charter Schools, has filed a bill that prioritizes public school educators and students by holding charter schools accountable:
HB 684 by Mary González (D-El Paso) would create a study comparing and evaluating certain characteristics of open-enrollment charter schools and school districts, as well as examine the impacts of open-enrollment charter schools on public school districts.
HB 438 by Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) would call for the TEA commissioner to create a new procedure for providing notice of a charter school application to the superintendents and the board of trustees in the corresponding school district, as well as the members of the Legislature in that geographical area.
HB 189 by Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) would shine more light on severance payments to a superintendent or administrator serving as educational leader and chief executive officer of an open-enrollment charter school.
Education Austin Announces New COVID-19 Pilot Program with AISD
Education Austin has launched a pilot program in conjunction with Austin ISD to make educator voices heard on school reopening decisions. The “COVID Flexibility Framework” program forms a combined campus team of school employees and administrators that works together on district plans for school reopenings. The goal is to make these plans reflect the health and safety concerns of employees on that school campus and account for additional resources and staffing that may be necessary.
“This is campus-based decision making, showing that you create a strong culture and climate on a campus when everybody buys in,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin.
While the program is currently a pilot at five campuses, the union wants to work toward a district-wide initiative.
Sunset Commission Recommends Minor Changes to TRS
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission held a hearing this week to discuss its recommendations for the Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS).
An intensive analysis from the commission identified key areas for improvement including TRS’ communications and transparency. The commission concluded that in addition to improving its relationship with its members, TRS would benefit from more effective contract management and additional oversight of its investment practices.
The commission also noted that retirees could benefit from financial planning help, but TRS explained that providing financial planning information for members is difficult: Statute prevents TRS from giving financial advice to members.
The Sunset Commission will continue to accept any modifications or recommendations until Dec. 22, when they will vote on recommendations to the Legislature.
Texas AFT Activist Spotlight: Diana Alexander
Cy-Fair AFT member Diana Alexander (left) did the work this election cycle. A diagnostician by day and a Texas AFT activist by night, Diana led a group of volunteers to write hundreds of member-to-member postcards for Cy-Fair AFT. Diana educated her friends and followers on social media through Facebook Live town halls. Activists like Diana help Texas AFT make meaningful change as we educate, advocate, and vote. The next election is always around the corner. You can sign up now to lend a hand for future elections.