Feb. 23, 2024: Early Voting Kicks Off

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

Friday, Feb. 23, 2024

Could you use some good news? Because we could use some good news. 

Here at Texas AFT, we bring you need-to-know information on the state of public education in Texas with every Friday’s Hotline. And we are acutely aware that, by and large, the news we have to share is, well, less than uplifting.  

So today, we bring you a very happy story of educators, their union, and their district coming together to provide #RealSolutionsForKids. This week, Socorro AFT, our local affiliate in Socorro ISD, donated more than $1,500 in behavioral therapy tools for students with sensory needs at Desert Wind School.  

“This is going to help our students out tremendously with their sensory issues by helping them self-regulate,” said Melissa Delfin, a special education teacher in the structured learning unit at Desert Wind School. “I’m grateful to Socorro AFT who really go out and help the community, specifically here at Desert Wind. In the past, we’ve also had book donations from them, so this is just an added cherry on top for our children with special needs. I’m glad they were included in this round of donations.” 

You can read more about the donation, made possible by a grant from AFT’s Powerful Partnerships Institute, on the district’s website. 

Now we turn to less stellar topics … In this week’s Hotline:  

  • More school districts have announced layoffs and budget cuts in the wake of the Legislature’s failure to increase funding. 
  • The State Board for Educator Certification held its regular meeting last week, and there are some surprising updates on educator preparation. 
  • Two months into the post-SB 17 era, and Texas universities are in chaos trying to implement it. 
  • Join us at the Capitol on Saturday, March 2, for the Poor People’s Assembly.  

— Elections

Reminder: Early Voting Ends March 1! 

Nearly 18 million Texans are now registered to vote ahead of the March 5 primary election, though that new high may not lead to record turnout. Heading into Friday, the end of the first week of early voting, just 1.5% of eligible voters had cast a ballot. 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 has begun and will run until Friday, March 1. Be sure to visit the Texas AFT Voter Education Hub to access 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. 

— Event

Educating Texas: Elections Have Consequences

Tuesday, March 5 

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, March 5, Election Day for Texas primary elections, and we’ll be celebrating with activities, prizes, and some learning opportunities too. Sign up for this and all other sessions on our Mobilize page. 

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

— State Board for Educator Certification


SBEC Recap: Major Changes Approved for Educator Preparation 

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met for its first regular meeting of the year on Feb. 16 in Austin. The 15-member appointed board took up several pertinent items within SBEC rules related to educator training and certification. 

Read our full recap online for updates on the discussion about Educator Preparation Programs, the surprising return of edTPA, and the eye-opening stats on the growth explosion of uncertified Texas teachers.  

— School Funding

Wave of Layoffs Hitting Public Schools in State with $32.7 Billion Surplus 

A growing number of Texas public schools are confronting a wave of layoffs and budget cuts, highlighting a statewide crisis of chronic underfunding exacerbated by political decisions at the highest levels.

Canutillo, Spring Branch, and Fort Worth Independent School Districts (ISDs) are among those facing dire financial constraints, leading to significant reductions in staff, the elimination of key student programs, and an erosion of educational quality. This situation is indicative of larger issues plaguing schools across the state, stemming from insufficient state support and legislative inaction.

— Event

Poor People’s State House Assembly 

Saturday, March 2 

11 a.m.-2 p.m. 

Texas Capitol 

Next Saturday, March 2, just before a critical Election Day the following Tuesday, the Texas Poor People’s Campaign is organizing  a People’s Assembly in Austin at the Capitol on March 2, 2024 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This People’s Assembly will bring Texas residents from across Texas to stand in solidarity on voter rights, health care, immigration, livable wages, and education. 

It is important that all Texans, but especially public educators, show up to support one another at this event, of which Texas AFT is a proud sponsor. As the state attacks vital resources for vulnerable communities, including the right to education, it is critical that all Texans join arms in opposition to this hateful agenda that leaves our neighbors, our communities, and our kids behind. 

The Texas assembly is a part of a coordinated national effort. The Poor People’s Campaign will be hosting similar events at 31 state capitols across the U.S., as well as at the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. Sign up here to take part in this event. 

— Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

‘Indifferent and Irresponsible’: The Disastrous First 50 Days of Texas’ Anti-DEI Law 

Earlier this week marked 50 days since Senate Bill 17, the Texas Legislature’s cruel attempt to attack diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at Texas public colleges and universities, went into full effect.  


The core purpose of this law, according to the bill text, is to stop institutions of higher education from “promoting differential treatment of or providing special benefits to individuals on the basis of race, color, or ethnicity,” but the implementation of the bill has revealed its practical, perhaps intentional, effect: to systematically remove any reference to diversity. 


The effects of the bill may be most clearly visible at the University of Texas at Austin, just a stone’s throw from the Texas Capitol. UT Austin, a frequent punching bag for lawmakers in Austin, has been reckless and inconsistent in its implementation of the law. 

— Student Safety

Educator Perspectives Needed: Mandatory Reporting & Support 

Share your perspective on mandatory reporting! AFT and the University of California, Irvine, are conducting an online survey to learn more about educators’ perceptions of reporting to Child Protective Services. Even if you haven’t reported to CPS, we are interested in hearing from you. Survey participants will be entered into a drawing to receive one of 65 Target, Staples, or Bookshop gift cards for $15. Get more information and participate in the study. Please invite other educators, as well. 

Last year, our union launched an action guide on Mandated Support in Education. As we continue to learn more about what educators think and need in this space, we’re also excited to share information and resources. Please register for “The State of Mandated Support in Education,” Thursday, March 21, at AFT’s Share My Lesson Virtual Conference, where we will introduce new tools, including a guide prepared by the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. 

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Texas passes on $450 million summer lunch program for low-income families. This year 35 states will participate in a $2.5 billion federal nutrition program that will help low-income parents buy groceries for their children when free school meals are unavailable during the summer months. But Texas, which has 3.8 million children eligible for the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has opted not to join this national effort. (Texas Tribune, Feb. 22)  


📖 Northside AFT calling for comprehensive change to protect educators after recent death of instructional assistant. After a beloved instructional assistant with Northside ISD died after sustaining a head injury while working with a student with cognitive disabilities, a union representing the district’s teachers is calling for comprehensive change to better protect their educators. (KENS 5, Feb. 21)  


📖 Barbers Hill ISD’s dress code policy does not violate CROWN Act, district judge rules. A Houston-area judge on Thursday determined that Barbers Hill ISD has not violated Texas’ CROWN Act after the district repeatedly suspended a Black student for the length of his dreadlocks. Darryl George, an 18-year-old Black student at Barbers Hill High School east of Houston, has been repeatedly suspended for his dreadlocks. George’s family and legal team say his hair is protected under the CROWN Act, which prohibits race-based hair discrimination against students and employers. (Houston Public Media, Feb. 22)