Feb. 2, 2024: Kicking Off Election Season

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

Friday, Feb. 2, 2024

Image reads: Are you registered to vote?

“God bless the Texas labor movement, and God help Texas.” 

Last weekend, Texas AFT delegates attended the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention, kicking off Texas labor’s political fight this election year for working Texans (more on that later).  

In his speech to convention delegates, President Zeph Capo underscored the stakes for public education and public education employees at the ballot box this year. Texas, he noted, is now the world’s eighth-largest economy; we have the money to fund a world-class, thriving public school system. “What we don’t have,” he said, “are leaders who give a damn enough to do something about it.”  

In that spirit, a reminder: Every Texan who wants to vote in the March 5 primary election must register to vote by Monday, Feb. 5. If you’ve moved since the last election cycle, you also need to make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address!  

We’ve got instructions on how to do that, as well as more information about what’s on your ballot at vote.texasaft.org 

In this week’s Hotline:  

  • 🚨 Announcing the Texas AFT Committee on Political Education’s first round of endorsements for the March 5 primary 🚨
  • Our recap of the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention hits the highlights.  
  • Read the letter on HB 900 and book-banning our coalition sent to your superintendent this week. 
  • COLA checks, “Panhandle Values,” dates for your calendar, and more! 

“The American Federation of Teachers supports a negotiated bilateral cease-fire, agreed to by both sides in this war and guaranteed by the international community. A cease-fire agreement must include humanitarian aid for the immediate provision of desperately needed food, water, medical care, clothing and emergency shelter to Palestinians and the release of all hostages taken on Oct. 7.”

— Elections

Image reads: Vote with educators.

Texas AFT Political Committee Announces 1st Round of Primary Election Endorsements 

Texas AFT’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), our union’s political arm, is proud to announce its first round of endorsements ahead of the March 5 primary. Our union’s political advocacy is funded solely by voluntary donations from our members across Texas and purchases from our online store 


Your children’s teachers, bus drivers, school nurses, adjunct professors, librarians, and more have generously put their checkbooks to work, trying to elect real public education allies to office.   


It is our job as a state federation to steward those dollars and our endorsements with care and great consideration. Read more about our process and find Texas AFT COPE’s list of endorsements on our website.

— AFL-CIO COPE Convention 2024

Image reads: Texas A-F-T bridges institute regional leadership conference.

Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar and Texas AFT President Zeph Capo on stage at the convention. Courtesy of Texas AFL-CIO. 

Recap: 2024 Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention 

This past Sunday and Monday, hundreds of delegates representing local unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO from across Texas convened in Austin for the 2024 Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention. 


COPE, the Committee on Political Education of the Texas AFL-CIO, plays a pivotal role as the political arm of the union by endorsing candidates and approving funding for campaigns that are committed to advancing workers’ rights and interests. 


As we edge closer to landmark elections in 2024, the labor movement’s spirit at the convention was palpable, with members showing unwavering enthusiasm and determination to champion necessary change both within Texas and nationwide. And Texas AFT’s work was well-represented on stage.  

— Event

Image reads: educating texas, where rules are made.

Educating Texas: Where Rules Are Made 

Tuesday, Feb. 6 

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. 6, and we’ll be joined by state Rep. Alma Allen, a former State Board of Education member, for a discussion of the SBOE, the State Board of Educator Certification, and how these two bodies work together (or don’t). Sign up for this and all other sessions on our Mobilize page. 

Missed our first session with SBOE member Aicha Davis? Watch the recording here. 

— School Safety

Texas AFT Joins Coalition Partners with Guidance for Districts on HB 900, Book Bans 

This week, Texas AFT joined the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas and other public education and civil rights groups in sending a an advisory letter to all Texas public school superintendents regarding book-banning bill HB 900. 

In the letter, our coalition provides updates and legal guidance on how to best comply with the current law, while also ensuring that books that aren’t banned are kept on or returned to library shelves. 

— Event

As you settle into 2024 and start thinking about the year ahead, you may be asking yourself questions, like, “Who can make real change in my workplace?” or, “What about my career — who can help me grow and advance?” 

The answer is you.   

This February, empower yourself to build union power and take an active role in your professional development by registering today for one of our union’s biennial conferences providing both worksite leader and professional development workshops. 

Texas AFT’s Bridges Institute Regional Leadership Conferences are taking place this February in Houston (Feb. 10) and the Rio Grande Valley (Feb. 24).

— Texas Education Agency

Republican Representative Calls out ‘Dangerous Bureaucracy’ at Texas Education Agency 

Texas state Rep. Glenn Rogers stirred up controversy this week when he announced his intention to file legislation for the 2025 legislative session that would eliminate the Texas Education Agency (TEA). His argument took aim at TEA, suggesting that the agency had become a breeding ground for wasteful spending and an ever-expanding bureaucracy that threatened the core values of education in Texas. 

Rogers pointed to alarming statistics, revealing that TEA’s budget had swelled by 39% over the past decade, accompanied by a staggering increase in full-time employees. 

Unlike in numerous other states, the agency’s head, Education Commissioner Mike Morath, is appointed rather than elected, rendering the commissioner unaccountable to the concerns of parents, community leaders, and teachers. 


Retirees across Texas, including Texas AFT Retiree Plus Chair Rita Runnels (above), are celebrating the distribution of COLA-adjusted checks this week because of the passage of Proposition 9 this November and years of legislative advocacy by Texas AFT Retiree Plus.  

For most retirees, this is their first ever pension increase, despite having been retired for as long as 20 years and despite experiencing as much as 60% increase in consumer prices. Those who retired on or before Aug. 31, 2020, received an increase to their pension of 2%, 4%, or 6% depending on when they retired.  

Paper checks were mailed Tuesday, while retirees who receive their pension via direct deposit should have received their checks Wednesday. 

— Higher Education

West Texas A&M Institute Intended to Promote ‘Thought about Traditional Conservative Value(s),’ Reporting Reveals 

Image reads: In the panhandle, a conservative vision for higher education takes root at west texas A & M.

This past week, reporting from the Texas Tribune revealed more details of the undue right-wing influence of wealthy donors over a new program at West Texas A&M University. As previously reported in the Hotline, the Hill Institute, funded by a $20 million donation by a multimillionaire, is an on-campus academy dedicated to promoting a specific set of so-called “American values” and is inspired by former university president Joseph Abner Hill’s “belief regarding the importance of Judeo-Christian values.” 

Image reads: Texas A-F-T 2024 membership survey.

After a shamefully unproductive legislative session(s) in 2023, Texas politicians are gearing up for this year’s general election, and public education will be a top issue. Your voice helps your union bring facts to the table against a tidal wave of misinformation about our schools.  

If you’re a Texas AFT member — K-12, higher ed, or retired — you should have received an email with a link to take our 2024 Membership Survey. The survey should take 15-20 minutes to complete, and every member who completes it will be entered to win one of five $100 gift cards.  


Check your inbox for an email with the subject line: Texas AFT Annual Membership Survey. 

Recommended Reading

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

📖 A secret shelf of banned books thrives in a Texas school, under the nose of censors. In the far, far suburbs of Houston, Texas, three teenagers are talking at a coffee shop about a clandestine bookshelf in their public school classroom. It’s filled with books that have been challenged or banned. (NPR, Jan. 29)  

📖 Private Schools, Public Money: School Leaders Are Pushing Parents to Exploit Voucher Programs. Voucher expansions have unleashed a flood of additional taxpayer dollars to the benefit of families already enrolled in private schools. In Ohio, some schools are now “strongly encouraging” parents to apply for vouchers, regardless of need or income. (ProPublica, Jan. 31)  

📖 How do you turn around a failing school? Manor Middle does it with higher pay and student leadership. Manor Middle School was facing the possibility of a charter school partnership after getting “F” grades for several years in a row from the Texas Education Agency. Then, district and campus staff came up with a plan to raise the school’s grade. (Texas Standard, Jan. 26)