Holiday note: Texas AFT offices will be closed for the holiday break through Monday, Jan. 4. The next edition of the Hotline will be sent Friday, Jan. 8.
Educator Victory: McAllen AFT Wins Remote Work Option
In a video released Thursday, Dec. 17, the superintendent of McAllen ISD, Dr. J.A. Gonzalez, announced school employees would be given the option to work remotely for three weeks following the return from winter break.
This news comes after concerted campaign by members of McAllen AFT and a diverse community coalition to revise the district’s reopening plans in light of Hidalgo County’s rising COVID-19 case numbers and the expected post-holiday surge of infections. An open letter urging district officials to allow employees to work remotely in January was signed by nearly 250 district employees, union leaders, health officials, and lawmakers.
In his announcement video, Gonzalez also encouraged parents to keep as many students as possible home as virtual learners during this period.
Tell the Governor We Need Full Funding for Our Public Schools
Twenty-three public education organizations, including Texas AFT, wrote to Gov. Abbott this week to ask that he ensure full funding for the entire 2020-2021 school year. The letter notes that under current Texas Education Agency guidelines, there is no such assurance for sustained funding past the first 18 weeks of the school year. Texas schools are funded based on enrollment, and districts across the state have experienced significant enrollment declines because of COVID-19. Without this “hold harmless” extension, declining enrollment could jeopardize school funding, potentially leading to harmful cuts.
We ask our members to call Gov. Abbott and echo the demand to ensure sustained school funding for the rest of this year. Read the letter sent to Gov. Abbott earlier this week.
Send a Letter: Educators Are Front-Line Workers
Texas AFT continues to fight for all educators to have priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as front-line workers. Last week, we asked Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, to prioritize school employees for vaccine distribution. Now, we need your help. Send our e-letter to urge Dr. Hellerstedt and the rest of the panel making distribution decisions to prioritize educators and school employees in their vaccine allocation plans.
TRS December 2020 Quarterly Board Meeting Update
Local Leader Spotlight: Nikki Cowart, President of Cy-Fair AFT
Teacher Appraisal & STAAR Update
Last week, the Texas Education Agency announced its decision to suspend A-F ratings while continuing to administer the STAAR test. The announcement also indicated potential impacts for teachers whose evaluations are tied to the test. “For those schools that incorporate STAAR results into teacher evaluations, TEA is providing flexibility to allow them to remove that component this school year,” the release stated. Local school boards must first approve these waivers, which would allow districts to waive just student growth requirements or all general teacher appraisal requirements.
Good Bills of the Week: Jessica González Prioritizes Public Educators
This week, Texas AFT celebrates the good work of Dallas sophomore Rep. Jessica Gonzales, who proved a fierce fighter for public education workers in her first session.
González (D-104) filed two pieces of legislation that, if passed during the 87th legislative session, would improve the livelihoods of Texas’ public school teachers and support personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic recession. HB 732 establishes a $15 minimum wage for all employees working in public school districts and open-enrollment charter schools, while HB 733 increases the state’s contributions to the cost of healthcare coverage for school personnel. The bill would create a uniform healthcare coverage plan.
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo issued the following statement in support of the bills: “At a time when school employees are on the front line of a global pandemic, they should not have to worry about the cost of healthcare. But wages have stayed mostly stagnant in Texas, healthcare costs for school employees and retirees have risen, and our teachers and support staff have been left to pick up an increasing share of their own insurance costs. It’s unacceptable. So we are grateful to Rep. Jessica González for trying to ease the burden on our school employees…”
COVID-19 Antibody Testing for Educators
Education Austin Pushes Endorsed Candidates to School Board Victory
This past Tuesday, Noelita Lugo and Lynn Bowsell, local union Education Austin’s endorsed candidates for Austin ISD school board, won their races in a competitive runoff. December runoff elections generally have low turnout, but Education Austin worked hard to get out the vote for Boswell and Lugo, proving once again how powerful our work is.