Jan. 27, 2023: Raises for All Texas School Employees

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

Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

As Texas public schools beg for funding, Texas charter schools … buy luxury horse ranches.

Text reads: Lax texas charter school laws allow splashy land buys, profits for leaders.

This year, National School Choice Week fell just a week after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick proclaimed before the Legislature that he and Gov. Greg Abbott are “all in” on “school choice.” 


What’s normally a week in which voucher proponents and charter school operators share the alleged benefits of school privatization started with a different sort of bang this year. On Jan. 22, the San Antonio Express-News published an eye-opening story about the legal loopholes many charter school chains exploit for profit


“An analysis by Hearst Newspapers found cases in which charter schools collected valuable real estate at great cost to taxpayers but with a tenuous connection to student learning. In others, administrators own the school facilities and have collected millions from charging rent to the same schools they run.”


Those purchases include former ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson’s luxury horse ranch, now owned by Dallas-area charter chain Universal Academy. 


These are stories from existing charter schools (publicly funded but privately run). Imagine what private schools, with even less scrutiny, might get up to with public money if the Legislature were to pass a voucher scheme. 


Meanwhile, true Texas public schools — the ones 76% of parents give an A or B grade — haven’t seen an increase in state funding since 2019. Texas, with the ninth-largest economy in the world and a $33 billion budget surplus, is 39th in the nation for per-pupil funding. Vouchers would make it even worse, something Texas AFT talked about in depth this week with Dr. David DeMatthews, an education policy professor at the University of Texas at Austin.


 If you missed the event, you can watch the conversation on our Youtube channel


Also in today’s Hotline: 

  • News from the Capitol includes a bill that would give Texas teachers a $15,000 raise and support staff a 25% raise (!).
  • A new poll shows that 89% of Texans are with us and want more state funding for education and higher teacher salaries. 
  • Important committee assignments have been announced in the Texas Senate, letting us know which lawmakers need to hear directly from you about education topics. 
  • The voucher threat gains momentum nationwide with a win in Iowa.

— Texas Legislature

Good Bills of the Week: Rep. Talarico Announces Bill to Give Raises to Teachers, Support Staff 

At a press conference at the Capitol this past Tuesday, Rep. James Talarico (D-Austin) announced a bill, HB 1548, that would provide certified educators with a $15,000 raise and all other full-time, non-administrative school staff with a 25% raise. 


Texas AFT’s Respect Agenda calls on the Texas Legislature to provide raises of at least $10,000 for certified educators and raises of at least 15% for other full-time staff in order to meaningfully address the teacher retention crisis.

In addition to Talarico’s bill, legislators in both the House and Senate have continued to file legislation favorable to educators and that addresses our Respect Agenda demands:

  • HB 1218 by Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) would provide a 6% cost-of-living adjustment capped at $100 per month for all TRS members who retired before August 2021.
  • SB 574 by Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) would set up a system to compensate victims of school gun violence and their families.
  • SB 112 by Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) would require students to complete at least one mental health course while in high school that satisfies the instruction requirements regarding depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders.

Text reads: Texas A-F-T Legislative advocacy trainings.

To pass our Respect Agenda, we need all hands on deck, advocating for the needs of public school employees and students in the 88th Legislature. Our Wednesday series of Legislative Advocacy Trainings can help you stay plugged in to our collective fight! Find all the Zoom sessions and sign up online.


Next Event

Feb. 8, 6 p.m. CT: The Ins and Outs of Public Education Funding

— Polls & Surveys

2023 Poll Finds (Again) That Texans Love Their Public Schools

The Charles Butt Foundation has released its 2023 poll on Texans’ attitudes toward public education, and, once again, the results confirm what we already know: Texans overwhelmingly support and value their public schools and those who work in them. 


Among the key findings of this year’s poll: 

  • 89% of Texans support increasing teacher salaries. 
  • 89% of Texas public school parents are satisfied with the quality of education their children receive. 
  • 76% of Texas public school parents give their children’s teachers an A or B grade. 
  • ¾ of Texans think public school teachers are undervalued or disrespected. 

These results couldn’t have been released at a more important time. With the 88th Legislature in session, our union is focused on passing bills aligned with our Respect Agenda, including substantive raises for all public school employees and a significant expansion of state funding for public education. 

What results like these tell us is that parents and most Texans agree with our agenda.

— Local

Houston School Employees, Families to Rally Against State Takeover

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Houston ISD educators, staff, and parents will rally with community and labor allies against a potential takeover of the district by the Texas Education Agency. 

The event, set to take place outside Houston ISD’s headquarters, is being organized in response to a ruling earlier this month from the Texas Supreme Court that removed a major roadblock from TEA’s long-standing attempt to oust the district’s democratically elected school board.

TEA has been trying to replace the HISD board with a hand-picked board of managers since 2019 because of poor accountability scores at a single campus and misconduct allegations against previous board trustees. 


Now, with a new elected board and a passing grade for the previously struggling campus, TEA is continuing its pursuit with even fewer obstacles. 


“I hope that the district will pursue whatever avenue it has so that we can keep our democratically elected board,” said Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, after the ruling was announced.

If you are in the Houston area, you can stand with Houston public school educators and families at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. RSVP online for the rally.

— Texas Legislature

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Announces Senate Committee Assignments

This past Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced assignments for Texas Senate committees for the 88th legislative session. The 31 Texas senators were each assigned to the 15 standing senate committees and a 16th special committee on redistricting. 


All 16 of the senate committees will be chaired by Republican members, except for the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which will be chaired by Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston).

Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) will continue to chair the Senate Education Committee, with Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) serving as Vice Chair of the Committee. This session, the Senate Higher Education Committee will be a subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee. Dallas Sen. Royce West is the sole Democratic member of the five-member Higher Education Subcommittee.


The powerful Senate Finance Committee will be chaired by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston). The Senate Finance Committee is responsible for handling the state budget and all legislative appropriations for the Senate.

— Privatization

Iowa General Assembly Passes Controversial Private School Voucher Legislation

This past week, the Iowa General Assembly passed a bill to use public tax dollars to fund private school education scholarships. Gov. Kim Reynolds, an outspoken supporter of private school vouchers, signed the bill Tuesday, just hours after it was voted out of the Iowa Senate. 


Once implemented, the Iowa voucher scheme is projected to cost Iowa taxpayers $345 million each year, money that otherwise could have been sent to support Iowa’s underfunded public schools. The push for private school vouchers in Iowa came primarily from out-of-state entities like the so-called “American Federation for Children,” a scandal-ridden group founded and funded by the billionaire family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

So far, there have been several bills filed by Texas legislators that would create similar private school voucher schemes in Texas. Like Iowa, lawmakers from both parties in the Texas House have long withstood pushes to implement private school voucher schemes, even as voucher bills have passed through the Texas Senate. It’s critical they do so again.

Recommended Reading

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

? Most Texans support more school funding and teacher raises, new survey finds. As legislators start a new session with a historic surplus and already pointing to their priorities on public education, a new survey released Tuesday shows Texans support teacher raises, want an increase in public school funding and are split on voucher-like programs. (The Texas Tribune, Jan. 24)

? Commentary: Texas is flush with cash, but lags in education spending. “It’s surreal to see our schools in crisis and cash-strapped while those holding the purse strings are flush with cash and more focused on voucher measures that further drain resources from schools,” writes Marisa Bono, CEO of Every Texan. (San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 25)

? Here’s why Pflugerville ISD might close schools — and how the community is fighting back. The Pflugerville Independent School District is considering closing six elementary campuses to save money because it is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit. PfISD officials largely blame the shortfall on the state’s school finance system, which they argue underfunds public schools throughout Texas. (KUT, Jan. 18)