Feb. 24, 2023: Teacher Vacancy Task Force Report Is Finally Out

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

Friday, Feb. 24, 2023

Strong Public Schools Need Empowered Educators

Man wearing black t-shirt that says

No decisions about Texas school employees should be made without the input of Texas school employees. That’s our message to the Texas Legislature, and it’s the subject of our newest union T-shirt! Buy yours at store.texasaft.org and help fuel our fight (every purchase is a COPE donation!).

Do you know why every elementary school student in Brownsville ISD is now guaranteed a 15-minute recess? Because their unionized teachers fought for it and won.

The “right to recess” Brownsville Educators Stand Together (BEST AFT) members have secured is just a single concrete example of a much larger truth: giving educators’ a seat at the decision-making table leads to better conditions not only for staff but for students too. 

That’s something our friends at Every Texan recently explored in an op-ed for the Texas Signal. In a piece advocating for collective bargaining rights for Texas educators, Amanda Posson, senior policy analyst for Every Texan, draws the connection clearly between teachers’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions:  

“To achieve our collective vision for a fair and well funded public education regardless of our zip code, educators should be able to work together to address their needs and standards. History and data consistently show how unions can raise the bar for all of us … It’s time for teachers to collectively bargain so we can finally achieve the public education system that works for every Texan.”

We couldn’t agree more, especially when our members have told us consistently that they’re frustrated by the lack of educator voice in state and local decision-making on education. 

With the Legislature in session and more districts making bold moves to try to retain and recruit educators, it’s a relevant reminder: listen to our teachers or be ready to lose our teachers. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • The Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force has released its final report, and it echoes our union’s Respect Agenda for the Legislature.
  • Texas AFT has been awarded an AFT Innovation Fund grant to expand an educator apprenticeship and training program to directly address staffing shortages. 
  • The Texas House subcommittee responsible for the education portion of the state budget met this week and heard testimony from Austin Community College AFT President David Albert. 
  • Good bills circulating in the Texas Legislature include ones that would ban discrimination against Black hair, stand up for the rights of school support staff, and give students a voice on school boards. 
  • Texas AFT will participate in upcoming legislative advocacy days with education and gun violence prevention allies. 
  • We close out Black History Month with three more spotlights of remarkable Black Texans, including a very special member of our own union family.

— Texas Education Agency

Teacher Vacancy Task Force Releases Report, Largely Agrees with Texas AFT Report from Last Year

More than a year in the making, the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, convened by the Texas Education Agency, has issued its final report with recommendations for the Legislature


In a statement, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo thanked the task force for its work and made special note of the contributions of the 23 classroom teachers on the task force. 


“By and large, the solutions laid out in this report are practical, thoughtful, and urgently needed,” Capo said.

“This is what happens when you bring teachers to the decision-making table and give them a voice in their profession. That’s why we advocated so hard for their inclusion on this task force when they were initially left out.”

The task force was established in March 2022 by Gov. Greg Abbott to “examine the teacher retention and recruitment challenges across Texas.” As you may recall, the initial membership of the task force included just two full-time teachers. After widespread criticism — including from our members — 24 more teachers were added in May 2022.

In its report released today, the task force made recommendations in several areas for retaining and recruiting Texas educators: teacher compensation, working conditions, and training and support. (Read more about each on our website.) 


Notably, most of these areas mirror what our union has recommended in reports over the past year and in our legislative agenda


We’ll be breaking down the major recommendations in the report and what they mean for educators in more detail over the next three weeks. Stay tuned to the Hotline each Friday for our analysis. 


“The devil will be in the details, and we’ll be looking at how that strategic compensation plan comes together,” Capo said in his remarks. “What’s clear: the Legislature has a mandate and a duty to act by increasing the basic allotment, raising teacher and school staff pay across the board, and making serious quality-of-life improvements to the day-to-day operations of our schools.”

— National

Texas AFT Receives $50,000 AFT Grant for Educator Apprenticeship Program

Randi Weingarten stands at podium speaking.

This month, our national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, announced grants totaling $500,000 to fund 14 projects for AFT affiliates across the country, including Texas AFT. 


This latest round of grants is part of the AFT Innovation Fund’s “What Kids and Communities Need” grant program, which has committed $1.6 million in grants since the start of the pandemic. These funds are intended for projects that will help students learn, thrive, and recover from pandemic-related setbacks.

The grant funds allocated to Texas AFT will be used to create and expand an educator apprenticeship and training program to directly address Texas’ state-wide teacher shortage. The program would seek to establish a new TEA-approved certification program in Texas. In it, a cohort of 10 to 15 educators would receive mentorship from veteran educators and retirees to provide them with better on-the-job training to improve teacher retention.

— Respect Agenda

Northside A-F-T members stand with Representative Ray Lopez in his capitol office.

Northside AFT members met with lawmakers at the Capitol this week to discuss our union’s Respect Agenda and why it’s so important for public school employees. Members from Northside ISD are pictured here with Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio).

— Texas Legislature

House Appropriations Committee Considers Community College Budget, Hears Testimony from AFT

David Albert sits at table in front of the Committee.

David Albert, president of Austin Community College AFT, testifies before the Article III subcommittee of the Texas House Appropriations Committee about the need for more community college funding and higher staff pay.

This past Thursday, the Article III subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for the education-related portions of the state budget, heard testimony related to budget appropriations for the state’s community colleges. 


Dr. David Albert, president of Austin Community College AFT, was among those who testified. In explaining to the  subcommittee the need for additional community college funding specifically directed to staff raises, Albert outlined his members’ struggles to make ends meet. Thanks to ACC AFT’s recent wage campaign victory, the minimum hourly wage for ACC employees is $20 per hour, but Albert explained to committee members that $20 per hour is not enough to get by in high cost-of-living areas like Austin.


Additionally, the appropriations subcommittee heard from a representative of the legislative budget board (LBB), who laid out the first draft of the community college budget. Included in this draft is funding earmarked for recommendations made by the Texas Commission on Community College Finance (CCCF). 

Read more about those recommendations on our website.

— Texas Legislature

Good Bills of the Week: Ending Hair Discrimination, Standing up for Support Staff, Giving Students’ Voice on School Boards

This week, House Bill 567 by Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Garland) was referred to the House State Affairs Committee, making it one of the first bills to be referred to a committee this legislative session. HB 567, colloquially known as the “CROWN Act” (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), would prohibit racial discrimination based on hair texture. 


The bill would prohibit grooming policies in public schools and institutions of higher education that ban dreadlocks and other hairstyles. The bill also would also prohibit employers from enforcing discriminatory grooming policies and protect renters and homebuyers from being discriminated against based on hair texture.


Bowers previously introduced the CROWN Act during the last legislative session in 2021, but the bill never received a floor vote in the House. Since then, several cities, including Austin, have passed local versions of the CROWN Act.


In addition to the CROWN Act, several other good bills have been introduced, including:


HB 2208 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) would require the National Sexual Assault Hotline contact information be printed on student identification cards in public institutions of higher education.


HB 2204 by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) would amend the Labor Code make part-time school bus drivers and cafeteria workers eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. 


HB 2647 by Rep. Carl Sherman (D-DeSoto) would create a non-voting student trustee position within the board of trustees of a school district and allow the student to have the same powers and duties as any other board member, including the right to attend and participate in board meetings. 


HB 2695 by Rep. Venton Jones (D-Dallas) would require the board of trustees of each school district to adopt policy establishing benchmarks for the amount of square feet a school custodian may be assigned to for maintenance and custodial service.  

HB 323 by Rep. John Bucy III (D-Austin) would require fine arts to be included in the foundation curriculum for public schools.

Texas AFT to Join Gun Violence Prevention Lobby Day

Texas AFT will join Texas Gun Sense, Giffords’ Gun Owners for Safety, Moms Demand Action, and other gun safety allies for a day of action at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 28.

We must keep our children, teachers, school nurses, and support staff safe through immediate and long-term measures, like reducing minors’ easy access to dangerous firearms in our state. Join us as we call on lawmakers to pass common-sense gun legislation that will save countless lives!

  • 10 a.m.: Pre-rally at First Baptist Church
  • 11:45 a.m.: March to the Texas Capitol
  • Noon: Rally at the South Steps
  • 1 p.m.: Meetings with Legislative Offices

Texas AFT to Join Education Coalition Day of Action

The Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition (TLEEC) is a collaboration of more than 30 individuals and organizations, including Texas AFT, with the mission of improving the quality of public education for all children, with a specific focus on racial equity. Collectively, TLEEC advocates for fair funding, high-quality curriculum and instructional practices, quality bilingual education, and enhanced college access and success.

TLEEC and allies will host a Day of Action on Wednesday, March 1. Participants will meet at the South Steps of the Capitol at 9:30 a.m before a planned press conference at 10 a.m.

To keep up with the day of action, follow TLEEC’s Twitter and Facebook for updates.

For Black History Month, Texas AFT Recognizes Remarkable Black Texans

Texas A-F-T celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month, an important time for educators and students to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Black people throughout history and acknowledge the struggles and injustices of the past and present.


Each week of Black History Month, Texas AFT will highlight both Black Texans from history and current or retired Texas school employees, all nominated for recognition by our members and leaders.

We believe to #TeachTheTruth, we must recognize and lift up the contributions of the wonderfully diverse population of our state, our country, and our world. For more ways to bring Black History Month into the classroom, check out the free lesson plans and resources available to AFT members through Share My Lesson.

Photo of Allie Faye Killyer Pitts

Allie Faye Hillyer Pitts

Allie Faye Hillyer Pitts was a teacher who dedicated her life to uplifting the disenfranchised and marginalized in Corpus Christi. She has been lauded at the local, state, and national levels for her outstanding service to the community and to Corpus Christi’s children.

Nominated by Nancy Vera, president of Corpus Christi AFT

Headshot of Dwight Harris.

Dwight Harris

One of the first members of his family to attend a non-segregated public school, Dwight Harris is a long-time educator and union leader who went on to serve as the president of Victoria AFT. Texas educators also have Harris to credit for a major legal precedent on their First Amendment rights.

Nominated by Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT

Headshot of Shirley Harris.

Shirley Harris

Dwight Harris is not the only remarkable member of his family. In 1967, Dwight’s sister Shirley became the first Black student to graduate from Texas State University (then called Southwest Texas State College). Harris went on to teach in San Antonio for 40 years.

Nominated by Dwight Harris, past president of Victoria AFT

Recommended Reading

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

?Editorial: All the best arguments for school vouchers — and why they’re wrong. Vouchers have been rejected before but this time, advocates are hopeful that the upheaval of the pandemic and the deep-pocketed campaigns fueling school board fights about gay characters in library books and Critical Race Theory will buoy their efforts to a win. That shouldn’t happen. (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 17)

?Pflugerville ISD won’t close schools to save money, but a budget deficit looms. Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Douglas Killian urged PfISD families and staff to demand the Texas Legislature increase state funding for public education. He has made this call to action repeatedly since the district first announced the potential school closures in December. (KUT, Feb. 24)

? Union Talk Podcast: Are School Vouchers Good for Education? AFT President Randi Weingarten talks with Michigan State University education policy professor Joshua Cowen to discuss the real impact school vouchers are having on public education, students and our democracy. (AFT, Feb. 22)