Jan. 13, 2023: Our Visit to the Capitol; Hinojosa’s $10K Raise Bill


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

Friday, Jan. 13, 2023

Text reads: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 16, 2023. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Texas AFT offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 16.

— Texas Legislature

Texas AFT Takes Respect Agenda to the Capitol


Texas A-F-T President Zeph Capo speaks at a press conference at the Capitol. Local AFT presidents and Representative Ana-Maria Ramos stand behind him.

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo speaks at a press conference at the Capitol. Local AFT presidents and Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) stand behind him.

The 88th Legislature is now in session, and Texas AFT local leaders were on hand this week to discuss our union’s Respect Agenda with lawmakers, meeting with 78 different offices on Tuesday, the opening day of the session. 

 

With the comptroller announcing a $188.2 billion budget for the Legislature to allot (and a $32.7 billion surplus), we want to make clear that our chronically underfunded schools and underpaid school employees must be the priority for legislators.

 

Among the demands our union brought to the Capitol this week: 

  • A $10,000 across-the-board raise for teachers and certified staff, including nurses and librarians
  • A 15% across-the-board raise for classified staff, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, and custodians
  • A substantial increase to the basic allotment to fund these raises, as well as investments in our schools to make them safer and more supportive of students
  • Closing the class size loopholes that allow districts to overcrowd classrooms without penalty
  • A defined work year for educators so they aren’t expected to consistently sacrifice weekends and evenings 
  • A significant cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators that keeps pace annually with inflation

“I am proud to stand with the teachers of Texas to declare the 88th legislative session the public education session,” said Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) at a press conference hosted by Texas AFT on Tuesday. “We act or we don’t act. What we do will be pivotal to the future of our public schools.”

Hinojosa discussed her bill, House Bill 31, co-authored by Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple), that would move Texas public schools to a more equitable and robust enrollment-based funding model, providing the necessary financial resources for significant salary increases.



In remarks to the media, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo called our agenda “unifying,” a statement supported by the bipartisan delegation of lawmakers standing alongside him. Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) and Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) were in attendance, and both underscored the importance of increased funding for public education and prioritizing educator and student needs.


“It’s time to walk the walk and talk the talk,” Hunter said. “This session, we have to put education on the front burner.”


Meetings with Lawmakers



Alliance A-F-T President Rena Honea stands with Representative Carl Sherman

Alliance/AFT President Rena Honea with Rep. Carl Sherman


On Monday night, local union presidents were joined by representatives from 15 legislative offices for a mixer in Austin. The event was an informal way to meet representatives (and their families) as well as staff and start building relationships before the session got underway. 

 

We want to thank the following representatives for joining us or sending their staff: 

  • Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Garland)
  • Rep. Salman Bhojani (D-Euless)
  • Rep. John Bucy (D-Austin)
  • Rep. Mary González (D-Clint)
  • Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch)
  • Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson)
  • Rep. Ron Reynolds (D- Missouri City)
  • Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston)
  • Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (D-Houston)
  • Rep. Carl Sherman (D-Lancaster)
  • Rep. Erin Zweiner (D-Driftwood)


On Tuesday, following the press event, local presidents and staff split up to meet with legislators from their areas in their offices. All together, Texas AFT visited 78 offices, delivering materials with our Respect Agenda and having conversations with both legislators and staff.








Top to bottom, left to right: 

  1. Houston Educational Support Personnel’s Denetris Jones and Northeast Houston President Shonda Below with Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston)
  2. Socorro AFT President Veronica Hernandez with Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez (D-El Paso)
  3. Cy-Fair AFT President Nikki Cowart and Aldine AFT President Candis Houston with Rep. Sam Harless (R-Spring)
  4. ACC AFT President David Albert and Brian Evans, President of the University of Texas at Austin chapter of the American Association of University Professors, with Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin)
  5. Texas AFT Secretary-Treasurer Ray McMurrey and Political Director Anthony Elmo with Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple)
  6. Northside AFT President Wanda Longoria with Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio)

Empowering Our Members

Of course, to move our agenda forward, we need everyone in the fight. On Wednesday, more than 125 AFT members from across the state participated in a virtual legislative advocacy training. 

 

Members learned about opportunities to make an impact in this session through a number of avenues, including testifying at the Capitol, submitting public comments on bills, and writing letters to the editor

During the event, members texted more than 800 of their own friends and family, asking them to sign the Respect Pledge. Their work generated more than 300 new pledge signatures!

Text reads: Let's end this crisis.

[VIDEO] Why We Need the Respect Agenda

Ayaan Moledina, a student in Round Rock ISD, and Sara Fox, a teacher in Conroe ISD who recently left her job, talk about the crisis in public schools in Texas and why Texas AFT’s legislative agenda is so important. Watch on our Youtube channel. 


— Texas Legislature

Good Bills of the Week: Rep. Hinojosa Announces Bill to Give Teachers $10k raises


At our press conference at the Capitol this past Tuesday, Rep. Gina Hinojosa announced that she would be filing a bill that would ensure that all teachers across the state received a $10,000 salary increase. Teachers in Texas currently make significantly less than the national average, so this across-the-board increase would make Texas schools more competitive in attracting and retaining qualified educators. Texas AFT is working with legislators to file bills that would guarantee raises for non-certified education employees, like HB 991 by Rep. Terry Meza, which would guarantee a $15 minimum wage for school bus drivers.

 

Many other bills have already been filed that relate to Texas AFT’s Respect Pledge, including:

  • HCR 20 by Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) would call on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), which significantly cut into retired educators’ social security.
  • HB 529 by Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) would require individuals appointed by TEA to serve on a board of managers of a charter school to fulfill the same requirements to be elected to a public school board, including being a qualified Texas voter and serving without compensation.
  • HB 83 by Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) would allow school districts to use a writing portfolio assessment to assess writing performances as an alternative to the certain reading and English STAAR tests.
  • SB 248 by Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) and HB 45 by Christina Morales (D-Houston) would add ethnic studies, including Mexican American and African American studies, to the foundation curriculum requirements.
  • SB 170 by César Blanco (D-El Paso) would require an instant criminal background check for certain private firearm transfers.
  • SB 113 by Jose Menéndez (D-San Antonio) and HB 98 by Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would allow school districts to contract with local mental health authorities to provide students with mental health services. School districts could enroll as medicaid providers, such that they could provide and receive reimbursements for students who are medicaid recipients.




Text reads: Texas A-F-T's 2023 Legislative guide.

The 88th Texas Legislature convened Jan. 10 in Austin. Our union’s 12-page legislative guide gives you all the details on what to expect, what we’re fighting for, and how you can get involved.  

 

Any active Texas AFT member — including members of Retiree Plus — can claim a free copy of the guide! Just enter your information into our online form, and we’ll mail you a copy.


Not a member?

Our union welcomes all non-administrative public school employees in Texas. (Sorry, no principals allowed.) Higher ed employees are also welcome! You can join online today.


Not a school employee?

We still need you in this fight! Sign on to our Respect Agenda and help us win the schools our educators, staff, and students deserve.


— TRS

Sign AFT Retiree Phyllis Ruffin’s Petition to Join TRS Board of Trustees



Texas AFT Retiree Plus board member Phyllis Ruffin is just two dozen signatures shy from being on the ballot to join the TRS (Teacher Retirement System of Texas) Board of Trustees. Any active or retired teacher who is vested in TRS can sign Phyllis’ petition. All signatures must be submitted by Jan. 25 to be counted.

 

The TRS Board of Trustees is responsible for administering TRS and making decisions regarding TRS’ $200 billion investment fund. Though the TRS Board of Trustees is not responsible for setting the amount in monthly annuities that retirees receive, the decisions the board makes impact the health of the fund, which has been identified by the Legislature as a key factor when considering the passage of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).


Phyllis Ruffin is a retired teacher and paraprofessional who taught in Alief ISD. Phyllis is a single mom who, at one point, had to work four jobs at the same time to provide for her family. Phyllis’ mantra is “lift while you climb.” As Phyllis climbed in her career, she always made sure to support and uplift others. Phyllis is an active volunteer at her church, her local YMCA, and the Houston Chapter of the NAACP.

 

As a member of the TRS Board, Phyllis would prioritize the needs of retired and active educators because she has a first-hand understanding of those needs. You can hear from Phyllis herself in her own words in her recently released video

Both active and retired educators can sign Phyllis’s petition on the TRS nomination website. Nomination signatures are due Jan. 25. On Mar. 15 Electronic ballots to vote for eligible candidates will be available online and hard copy ballots will be mailed to eligible voters. All ballots must be returned by May 5 to count. The Governor will choose to nominate one of the top 3 vote-getters for the TRS board in June.


Recommended Reading

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

📖 More Schools Implementing Panic Button Technology

Montgomery County unveiled a new phone application for six of their school districts in hopes of utilizing the app in case of an emergency — The district has signed a three-year contract with Rave Mobile Safety and when the panic button is pressed, it will connect the individual to 911. Once the button is pressed, it will send an alert to everyone on the campus who has the app on their phone.(KHOU 11, Jan. 5)

📖 Two Texas Bills Would Restrict Lessons About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Public Schools

Two bills are predicted to receive top Republican backing in the current legislative session, both of which ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. The two bills, authored by Reps. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) and Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), resemble the Florida legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. (The Texas Tribune, Jan. 9)

📖 Texas Schools Hope New Legislature Will Add Stability to School Funding

State public education is a top priority for the new Texas Legislature. Rep. Gina Hinojosa’s proposal — House Bill 31 — would base school funding on an individual school’s average enrollment, and how many students are registered at each school instead of how many attend. (CBS Austin, Jan. 9)