Jan. 26, 2024: This is Just the Beginning

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

Friday, Jan. 26, 2024

Image reads: Texas A-F-T 2024 membership survey.

Your Union, Your Voice 

After a turbulent and shamefully unproductive legislative session(s) in 2023, Texas politicians are gearing up for this year’s general election, and public education will be a top issue. Your voice helps your union bring facts about the state of public education to the table against a tidal wave of misinformation.  

That’s why we want to hear from our members across the state! If you are a Texas AFT member — K-12, higher ed, or retired — you should have received an email on Tuesday, Jan. 23, with a link to take our 2024 Membership Survey.  


Tell us about the challenges you face and what you want to see from your union — and from lawmakers. The survey should take 15-20 minutes to complete, and out of respect for your time, every member who completes it will be entered to win one of five $100 gift cards.  


Check your inbox for an email with the subject line: Texas AFT Annual Membership Survey.  


In this week’s Hotline:  

  • Next week, the State Board of Education has a weighty agenda with one notable omission.  
  • A new national report reaffirms what we’ve known for years: Texas has one of the most severely underfunded public education systems in the country.  
  • The Department of Justice has released its long-awaited report on the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde ISD, and the details are even worse than you realized.  
  • Texas public school districts stand to lose $300 million in special education funding after a dispute between the state and federal governments.  

— State Board of Education

Image reads: Eyes on the board.

SBOE Preview: New Year, New Chair 

Readers of the Hotline will remember that in December, the governor appointed Aaron Kinsey, who represents District 15, as the new State Board of Education (SBOE) chair, replacing Dr. Keven Ellis, who has served as chair since 2019. Next week’s regular meeting of the board will be Kinsey’s first in the driver’s seat, and this appointment has already raised cause for some concern. 

At the November meeting, then-Chairman Ellis announced his intention to bring forward the American Indian/Native Studies for first reading in January. In a disappointing turn, the agenda was published without this anticipated item, leaving advocates surprised and scrambling to understand the reasoning behind the decision. Given that the chair determines the agenda, the question fell to Kinsey who has, so far, not given a satisfactory explanation for its removal 


Along with other ethnic studies advocates, we will watch the action in the room closely, hoping for a decision to place this item on the April agenda. 

— Event

Texas AFT Bridges Institute Regional Leadership Conferences 

Image reads: Texas A-F-T bridges institute regional leadership conference.

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 

— School Funding

New National Report Reveals Inadequacy of Texas School Funding 

Earlier this month, researchers with the Albert Shanker Institute, the University of Miami, and Rutgers University released a report that evaluated school funding levels across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and found, yet again, that Texas schools are direly underfunded. 

The Adequacy and Fairness of State School Finance Systems, which looked at funding data from the 2020-2021 school year, found that just over 91% of Texas public school students attended inadequately funded schools that year.

— School Safety

Justice Department Report on Uvalde Massacre Lambastes Law Enforcement Response 

A new report released by the Department of Justice charges law enforcement agencies with “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training” in their response to the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde ISD. The long-awaited Critical Incident Review states that law enforcement “demonstrated no urgency” in their response to the school shooting. 

President Joe Biden’s Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, released the 610-page report at a press conference in Uvalde last Thursday.

 At the conference, Garland stated that lives could have been saved if protocols had been followed properly and suggested that law enforcement agencies should act now by prioritizing active-shooter training to avoid a similar situation in the future. 

— Funding

$300M Special Ed Funding Cut: Texas Loses Final Appeal of Federal Audit 

In December, shortly before most school districts closed for winter break, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) sent notice that Texas school districts are expected to face a cut of $300 million in special education funding under a recent federal administrative decision. 


This cut in special education funding is the culmination of a lengthy dispute following a 2017 audit by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal audit found issues with the state’s billing practices under the School Health and Related Services (SHARS) program, which provides a mechanism for Texas school districts and charter schools to receive Medicaid reimbursement for health-related services offered to Medicaid-eligible students with disabilities.  


School districts like Northside ISD, Dallas ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Houston ISD, and Austin ISD are among those facing the largest cuts in the state, and they are left grappling with significant budget deficits. Northside ISD, for example, is expected to face a local funding cut of approximately $14 million. 

— Event

AFT Book Club: A Conversation with Amanda Gorman 

Sunday, Jan. 28 

5 p.m. CT 

AFT, Share My Lesson, and the Albert Shanker Institute are hosting a groundbreaking new book club series this year. Tune in each month for an evening of inspiration, intellect, and innovation! Plus, when you’re one of the first to sign up each month, watch for discounts and incentives to get the upcoming author’s books.  

In January, inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman will join AFT President Randi Weingarten for the first session of the AFT Book Club Series.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Texas’ school ratings remain in limbo as the state and school districts fight over how strict the grading should be. Dozens of school districts sued the Texas Education Agency last fall, claiming revisions to the state’s accountability system would hurt them. Under TEA’s proposed new rules, schools would have to prove that a significantly higher number of high school students were pursuing a career after graduating. (The Texas Tribune, Jan. 16)  


📖 26 more Houston ISD schools will face ‘New Education System’ reforms next year as Wraparound Services shift focus.  More Houston ISD campuses will face sweeping reforms next school year, as state-appointed superintendent Mike Miles expands his so-called New Education System (NES) to turn around schools that have struggled to meet state standards. (Houston Public Media, Jan. 23)  


📖 Commentary: Blame SAISD’s cold weather crisis on Abbott, Washington. San Antonio Alliance President Alejandra Lopez writes, Last week’s school closures in the San Antonio Independent School District are a warning about the intertwined effects of Texas political leaders’ deliberate and chronic underfunding of public schools and the climate crisis.” (San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 21)