Jan. 12, 2024: Planning Ahead

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

Friday, Jan. 12, 2024

Two different styled hoodies, one blue and one gray.

With the drop in temps, we hope you stay safe this weekend. If you’re looking for ways to bundle up, now would be a great time to pick up a new hoodie from store.texasaft.org. Every purchase is a donation to our union’s Committee on Political Education this election year … 

Ready or Not 

It’s January, the heart of resolution season. With that in mind, we ask you to take out that brand-new planner — the one that will change everything this year — and jot down some key dates for your well-being in 2024:  

  • Feb. 5: the last day to register to vote in Texas’ primary election  
  • Feb. 20: the first day of early voting  
  • Feb. 28: the last day to apply to vote by mail  
  • March 1: the last day of early voting  
  • March 5: Election Day 

Got them all? Great. We’ll see you at the polls, where your neighborhood’s public school is most definitely on the ballot.  

In this week’s Hotline:  

  • Peer into our crystal ball and see what’s at stake for Texas public education in 2024.  
  • Senate Bill 17, the anti-DEI bill passed by the Legislature, has gone into effect.  
  • We highlight two new reports that detail the plight of middle school counselors and the dark-money forces fueling the voucher push in Texas. 
  • 19 Texas school districts will get new, clean-energy school buses thanks to federal grants.  

— Statewide

5 Things to Watch for in 2024 

In December, we looked back at the year that was — and all the highs, lows, and whoas for public education 2023 provided. Now we’re ready to look ahead to what promises to be a busy, uncertain year for our Texas public schools.  

2024 is a presidential election year, with consequential down-ballot races across Texas. The backdrop to this election in Texas:  

  • public schools struggling to make do with no additional money in their coffers 
  • an ongoing retention crisis among teachers and school staff  
  • Implementation of a flurry of bad bills with profound consequences for public education 
  • the governor’s continued war on legislators who stood against his privatization schemes 

Here’s what to expect as 2024 continues, so you can buckle up and be ready to fight forward for thriving Texas public schools. We can’t give up; our educators, students, and communities deserve better. 

— Event

Image reads: C-O-L-A celebration with special guest Zeph Capo.

Texas AFT COLA Celebration! 

It’s official. Voters overwhelmingly approved a cost-of-living adjustment for retired Texas educators. This win could have never happened without the relentless hard work of Texas AFT retirees. 

To keep up the momentum from this win and to grow our movement, we will also be taking collective action to grow our membership. 

— Privatization

New Report Shines Light on Dark-Money Voucher Push 

This past fall, Common Cause Texas, the state affiliate of the national democracy watchdog group, released a report highlighting the outsized influence that a small group of monied donors have on Texas politics, including public education policy. The report, “ALEC-tioneering: Unmasking Money and Influence in Texas Politics,” primarily focuses on the influence of shadow groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as well as that of individual donors.

The Common Cause Texas report explains how ALEC has coordinated with dark-money PACs like those we covered in our Unmasking Vouchers series to push school privatization in Texas and nationwide.

According to the report, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which we unmasked this fall, is both a member and founder of ALEC and has for years pushed ALEC’s agenda in the Texas Legislature.

ALEC’s “model policies,” drafted, pre-approved by the group, and distributed to legislators across the country for them to file as their own bills, include:

  • vouchers
  • attacks on academic freedom in higher education
  • efforts to roll back public pensions
  • other proposals that Texas legislators have pushed in previous sessions

— DEI Attacks

Bill Targeting Diversity in Texas Higher Education Takes Effect

At Stephen F. Austin State University, a maintenance worker removes references to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) from display to comply with SB 17’s censure of DEI programs at Texas public universities.  

On Jan. 1, Senate Bill 17 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, which prohibits diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and mandatory training on Texas college campuses, went into effect. The bill, which was opposed by student and professor groups, was passed during the regular legislative session last spring, but its implementation was deferred to allow time for universities to adjust to these new policies.

Over the past few months, universities have been amending their internal policies to comply with the law. That compliance has included either refocusing or totally dismantling offices that previously promoted diversity on campus. Now, as the bill goes into effect, we see more consequences of the Legislature’s absurd actions.

— Event

Texas AFT Bridges Institute Regional Leadership Conferences 

Register today to attend our union’s most exciting biennial conference, providing both worksite leader and professional development workshops.  

  • Houston: Saturday, Feb. 10 
  • Rio Grande Valley: Saturday, Feb. 24 

— Federal Funding

Texas Schools Win Federal Grants for Clean School Buses 

Image reads: bipartisan infrastructure law.

The Clean School Bus Program, a pivotal part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, will allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to invest $5 billion over the next five years to modernize school bus fleets nationwide. Both the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation have prioritized the program, working together to reduce the amount of air pollution in districts across the country. 


Due to the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, seven grants across 19 Texas public school districts will fund the implementation of electric buses to help revitalize school bus fleets. Of these seven grants, four of them were awarded directly to school districts, and three were given to third parties that will fund the program in districts across the state.  


Alief ISD, Austin ISD, and San Antonio ISD will have the financial resources for 60 new buses each, while Edinburg ISD and Canutillo ISD will get 14 new buses. 

— Intercultural Development Research Association

IDRA Study Highlights Ongoing Struggles Faced by Middle School Counselors

A decade after the Texas Legislature watered down graduation requirements through Texas House Bill 5, middle school counselors continue grappling with the challenges and demands required by this policy. A new study from IDRA, “School Counselors on College Advising Constraints,” highlights the repercussions of HB 5 for both counselor workloads and student outcomes.  

HB 5 established the Foundation High School Program (HSP) and ended the previous graduation requirements commonly known as the 4×4. Under the 4×4, Texas students were required to complete four math courses (including Algebra 2), four English language arts courses, and four social studies and science courses to graduate. Students are no longer required to take critical courses for college preparation, including Algebra 2. Instead, HB 5 requires that students pick an endorsement, locking in a career path they want to pursue throughout high school in the eighth grade. 

This has created a new wave of challenges for middle school counselors. Nearly all counselors interviewed by IDRA were skeptical that eighth grade students are developmentally ready to choose a career path.  

— Horace Mann

Long-time corporate supporter, Horace Mann, has some great tips for getting more sleep and making the most of this new year. They’re also here to help you get more value and savings from your car insurance. 

Horace Mann auto policies come with special perks and benefits just for educators, and when you bundle auto insurance with an existing Horace Mann policy, you could save with a multi-line discount. 

Contact your local Horace Mann representative today or start with an online quote! 

Horace Mann Insurance Company and its affiliates underwrite Horace Mann auto insurance. The benefits and discounts listed are only general descriptions of coverage and do not constitute a statement of contract. Additional terms and conditions, as described in the policy, must be met for the coverage to be provided. Not all benefits available in all states. 

Horace Mann and its affiliates enter into agreements with educational associations pursuant to which Horace Mann or its affiliate pays the educational association to provide various services that are aimed at familiarizing the association’s members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services.  For more information or to ask questions about your educational association’s services agreement, please email your inquiry to association.relations@horacemann.com. 


EMA-00365 (12-23) 

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Most states are rolling out a new summer food assistance program for kids. Texas isn’t one of them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching a program to help states, territories and some tribal nations address the food insecurity children can face over the summer when school is out. Texas, however, is one state that will not be joining the list for this year. (KUT, Jan. 5)  

📖  Texas’ teachers wonder if state’s extra cash will ever reach them. ‘It’s time.’ Since January 2023, lawmakers have failed to approve teacher pay increases, despite a $38.7 billion surplus and $4 billion already set aside in the state budget. During that time, teachers have been left wondering as the cost of groceries soars and home affordability falls to a new low: Will they ever see the pay raise promised and supported by lawmakers across the political spectrum? (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jan. 6) 

📖 Huston-Tillotson hopes to partner with Austin ISD to address lack of Black male educators nationwide. Teachers are some of the most influential people in our lives. And having a teacher that looks like you and understands you is important. That’s why staff and students at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin are pushing for a partnership with Austin ISD to get more Black male teachers into the classroom. (KVUE, Jan. 8)