Governor turns his back on our schools; Our new Election 2022 page; Discriminatory laws take effect
Publish Date: January 21, 2022 10:51 am Author: Texas AFT
Governor panders to false narrative on parental rights, turns his back on addressing the extreme hardships teachers face in Omicron surge
Is Gov. Greg Abbott talking about how to address the chaos in our schools with extreme teacher shortages caused by the Omicron surge? Is the governor proposing solutions help stop severe teacher burnout and to help make campuses safer for students and staff? No, on both counts.
“We’re all for full parental involvement in their kids’ education, families engaging in their school communities, which is why we already have a Parents Bill of Rights passed by the Legislature back in 1995,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo in a statement yesterday. “Those comprehensive rights and additions to them through the years have given parents greater access than ever before to curriculum and all decisions made in schools. What we won’t agree to is a phony, politicized storyline from the governor that ends up targeting and vilifying teachers and schools.”
Chapter 26 of the Education Code already lays out defined parental rights that include full transparency to instruction, as well as parental decision rights in almost every aspect of school life. Abbott says he intends to add language to the Texas Constitution, although it’s unclear what that language would be. Voters must approve additions to the Constitution if they are placed on a ballot by a two-thirds vote of both chambers in the Texas Legislature.
“What’s needed now is respect—mutual respect between school officials, teachers, and parents—that understands we all want the best for our students,” Capo said. “At a time when teachers are literally exhausted to the point of collapse and dropping out of the profession in droves, we have a governor who isn’t providing them any respect and certainly no support. Instead, Abbott is fighting hard to keep local leaders from making schools safer for children and teachers and inflaming lies about roadblocks to parental involvement. Our schools are in chaos and despair from the onslaught of this latest COVID surge, and our governor is playing politics.”
One thing the governor didn’t do is emphasize private-school vouchers, something some observers expected might happen. Abbott did, however, choose a charter-school campus—Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville— for his announcement. That charter has about half the number of African-American and Hispanic students as neighboring Lewisville ISD, and only 3.7% of its students are in special education. The charter is also part of a chain that gained headlines for curriculum on evolution—material that in many ways stressed creationism over evolution as the most plausible explanation for the planet’s development.
Finally, on Monday, January 24, at 5 p.m., we’re hosting a Political Bootcamp to enhance our voter registration outreach to members. Let’s take action and help members know they have the ability to build our collective power by voting.
Important tips for avoiding rejection of your application to vote by mail
The recently enacted SB 1 changed the vote-by-mail procedure, and we want Texas AFT members to be fully aware of how to request a ballot by mail.
First, if you want the official state mail ballot application, you can find it here. Second, when filling out your application, remember to put which party ballot you need in the primary AND the runoff (2 separate boxes), or it will get rejected. Third, add your driver’s license/state ID number AND the last four digits of your Social Security number to your mail ballot application.
Putting accurate contact information is the most important part of your application—especially your phone number and email. If your ballot application is rejected, state election authorities can call you or email you. If they cannot reach you by phone or email, your mail ballot application will be rejected. Lastly, you, the voter, must complete the mail ballot application and mail it in. You cannot request a ballot for someone else, even if they are legally disabled.
Call this voter protection hotline to ask questions about voter registration or mail ballots: 844-TX-VOTES (844-898-6837).
Redistricting and transgender discrimination policies become law
This past Tuesday, several bills passed during last year’s third special legislative session went into effect. The third legislative special session was called by Gov. Greg Abbott last September to pass new district maps for the U.S. Congress, State Board of Education, Senate, and House, and to push a number of Republican priorities not passed during the previous regular and special sessions in 2021.
The highly contentious HB 25, which bans transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities, went into effect along with all four redistricting maps.
Texas is the 10th state to pass a law similar to HB 25. The enforcement of similar laws in several other states has stalled due to ongoing legal battles. In a news conference celebrating HB 25 going into effect, the bill’s author, Valoree Swanson, hinted that she might introduce legislation to expand these restrictions to athletes at the collegiate level during the next session.
UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison stated that school districts would be responsible for checking student athletes’ birth certificates to enforce the law. According to the new law, modified birth certificates are only accepted if they were changed to correct a clerical error, but it is uncertain how school districts will tell if a birth certificate is original or modified.
With all four newly redistricted maps now in effect, voters will vote for representation in all of these new districts during the primary election on March 1 and then again during the general election on November 8, with possible primary runoffs occurring on May 24. Due to redistricting, every State Board of Education and Senate seat is up for election in 2022, as well as every State House and U.S. Congress seat, which are always up for election every two years.
The Biden administration has filed lawsuits to challenge Texas’ State House and U.S. Congressional district maps. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the redistricting plans “deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language minority group.” While partisan gerrymandering is legal, racially discriminatory gerrymandering is not.
The maps are also being challenged in state court by lawmakers arguing that the state Constitution mandates that redistricting must be handled during a regular legislative session. Redistricting occurred during a special session called by the governor due to a disruption in Census data collection caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs also argue that the maps did not follow proper redistricting rules for keeping counties intact. The plaintiffs in the state court case stated they don’t seek to overturn the maps for the 2022 election cycle. They want the issue litigated so it can be addressed during the 2023 regular legislative session.
SB 52, which had broad support from both parties, also went into effect Tuesday. SB 52 authorizes $3.3 billion in tuition revenue bonds for higher education institutions to finance construction projects.
We know how hard Texas school employees work every day, especially during this pandemic. And no matter what the talking heads might say, we know everyone deserves to feel safe and healthy in their school.
That’s why we’re asking you to take the Omicron survey—to hear what’s happening in your school and your district. The survey takes just minutes to complete. Your response will cut through the noise from people who’ve never stepped foot in a classroom.