Feb. 16, 2024: Cut to the Bone

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

Friday, Feb. 16, 2024

Members standing with signs across from Abbott's voucher rally.

Gov. Greg Abbott held yet another of his voucher rallies last week in San Antonio. Our members, active and retired, were there to greet him.  

Cut to the Bone

Fact: Texas has a significant crisis of retaining teachers and qualified school staff.  

Another fact: Texas public school districts are now laying off employees because the state has chosen not to match their funding to inflation.  

This week, the Fort Worth ISD school board approved job cuts and budget reductions. In her explanation as to why such action is necessary, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Angélica Ramsey did not mince words: “We have a governor and legislature holding our schools hostage. There are millions allocated for schools, but they won’t give us the money.”  

Far from dispute the characterization, Gov. Greg Abbott has confirmed it. In a story this week from NBC DFW reporter Wayne Carter, the governor is shown on air saying: 

“Those who want more funding for schools, they’ve got to get together for school choice. Because this is an all-together package of school choice, $6 billion more for funding education, teacher pay raises, as well as ending the STAAR test in the state of Texas.” 

When politicians tell you who they are, believe them. And remember it when you head to the polls in the next few weeks.  

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Early voting in the Texas primary election starts next week. Do you have your plan to vote? 
  • Fact check: Are private school vouchers somehow actually “pro-teacher”? Spoiler: no. 
  • The state’s largest educator preparation program may soon lose its accreditation status. 
  • A pair of new complaints allege that two Texas school districts are discriminating against students with disabilities and students of color. 

— Elections

Reminder: Early Voting Starts Feb. 20! 

It’s that time of year again: early voting season! As we get closer to the primary election date (March 5), it’s hugely important that we make our voices heard. As the war on public education — and public educators — continues, we must elect candidates who not only oppose school vouchers but will also put their full support behind funding our schools to thrive.  


For the March 5 primary, early voting starts Tuesday, Feb. 20 and runs until Friday, March 1. You can check your registration status before voting, and keep in mind that a photo ID is required in order to cast a ballot. 


Be sure to visit the Texas AFT Voter Education Hub for information about elections, voting, accommodations, and more. Additionally, Texas AFT COPE endorsements for candidates across Texas are housed there so that you can not only make your plan to vote but also get suggestions on who to vote for in this critical primary election. 


In addition to voter information, Common Cause TX is hosting virtual training sessions on voting rights and poll monitoring. The non-partisan Election Protection Program “makes sure eligible voters know how to cast their ballots and ensure they are counted.” Taking advantage of these resources will not only help advance our cause but also work to protect our democracy in this tumultuous time. 

— Privatization

Voucher Fact Check: Are Private School Vouchers “Pro-Teacher?” 

In the voucher debate, pro-voucher advocates often tout a range of unsubstantiated benefits, claiming everything from improved student standardized test scores to potential savings for the state budget. 


In a recent statement on X, state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) celebrated private school vouchers as a boon for teachers, suggesting that so-called “school choice” and marketplace competition would inevitably benefit educators by fostering a competitive environment for hiring the best talent. However, a closer examination reveals a more complex and less favorable reality for teachers and public education. 

— Event

Educating Texas: How we got here 

Tuesday, Feb. 20 

6 p.m. CT 

Texas has the eighth-largest economy in the world and a $32.7 billion budget surplus, but our schools are starved for resources. How did this happen? What can we do to fix it? Can it be fixed? 

Head back to school with Texas AFT for a brush-up on your civics education. In this bimonthly Zoom series, we’re walking through who holds the power in this state, what they’re doing with it, and what we need to build thriving public schools — and a thriving Lone Star State democracy. 

Our next session is Tuesday, Feb. 20, the first day of early voting, and we’ll be joined by Michelle Vallejo, Texas AFT COPE-endorsed candidate for U.S. Congress for a discussing of elections in Texas, voting rights, and the stakes for public education. Sign up for this and all other sessions on our Mobilize page. 

Missed our previous sessions? Watch the recordings on our YouTube page. 

— Discrimination

Corpus Christi ISD and Bonham ISD Discriminated Against Students of Color and Disabled Students, Complainants Allege 

Last week, Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, National Center for Youth Law, and Texas Civil Rights Project filed complaints that allege that Bonham ISD (BISD) and Corpus Christi ISD (CCISD) are discriminating against students with disabilities. Complainants also allege that BISD is discriminating against students of color. 


The heart of the issue facing both districts is that, instead of making a good-faith effort to meet the needs of chronically absent students, CCISD and BISD are referring students with disabilities to truancy court, where they are often ordered to drop out of school. This practice denies students the learning opportunities that they are entitled to under the law. 

— Teacher Certification

Texas Teachers of Tomorrow? The Saga of an Alternative Certification Group Continues.

Though the company has hired a new CEO and initiated drastic steps toward compliance, Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, the largest educator preparation program (EPP) in the state, still finds itself imperiled in several certification areas and at risk of losing its accreditation status.  Once known as A+ Texas Teachers, the company was placed on probation after a 2021 audit found the company to be out of compliance in key state standards including admission, curriculum, and governance.  Now, though its new CEO is bullish on his ability to right the ship, time may not be on his side. 

— Houston ISD Takeover

Houston Federation of Teachers, along with AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus, march outside Houston ISD administrative offices in October 2023.

Texas Education Commissioner Visits Houston ISD 1 Year After State Takeover

This past week, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath made his first on-site visit to Houston Independent School District (HISD) campuses since declaring a state takeover almost a year ago. On Tuesday, Feb. 6, Morath toured Kashmere High School, one of the initial schools moved into state-installed Superintendent Mike Miles’ “New Education System (NES).” 

“I, of course, have visited Houston schools many times over the years, and what you can see is really a night-and-day difference in terms of the degree to which students are engaged in rigorous academic discussions,” Morath said, addressing the media after his visit. 

But the rosy narrative painted by Morath in his lone visit to the district contrasts with the lived experiences of teachers, parents, and students.  

— Event

Event image.

AFT Book Club: A Conversation with Fred Guttenberg 

Sunday, Feb. 18 

5 p.m. CT 

Join us for our next AFT Book Club Series, featuring a discussion with AFT President Randi Weingarten and author Fred Guttenberg on his book, American Carnage: Shattering the Myths That Fuel Gun Violence. 

This is a unique opportunity to engage with two prominent figures in the conversation about America’s gun violence epidemic. Explore the depths of Guttenberg’s powerful and eye-opening narrative, as Weingarten leads a conversation that promises to challenge and expand your understanding of this critical issue.  

Be part of the dialogue that seeks to unravel the complexities and confront the myths surrounding gun violence in America to shape a safer future. Educators can receive one hour of professional development recertification credit for participating in this webinar if they complete all the poll questions, survey, and actively watch the webinar. 

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Anti-DEI Law Implementation Has Been a Disaster. The state’s colleges and universities were ill-prepared for the superstorm of Senate Bill 17 (SB 17). Passed during the recent, regular session of the 88th Texas State Legislature, SB 17 ostensibly prohibits the privileging of individuals based on race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, thereby defunding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in higher education. (Texas Observer, Feb. 13)  

📖 There’s liars, damned liars and Greg Abbott. As the old saying goes, there’s three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Gov. Greg Abbott employed all three strategies in a single statement Monday during a stop at the Fredonia Hotel, speaking on his pet project of ramming school vouchers down the throats of Texans. (The Daily Sentinel, Feb. 6)  

📖 Teachers are limiting lessons on political, social issues, report finds. A majority of American teachers are circumscribing lessons on political or social topics due to worries over parental complaints, and amid a wave of legislation that has reshaped how educators are allowed to discuss race, history, sex, and gender in the classroom, according to a national study released Thursday. (Washington Post, Feb. 15)