July 15, 2022: Our Statewide Endorsements; the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act; and Student Debt Relief Clinics
Publish Date: July 15, 2022 3:37 pm Author: Texas AFT
Texas AFT Endorses Slate of Candidates for Statewide Office This November
At a time when 66% of our members tell us they’re thinking of leaving education because of stagnant pay, out-of-control workloads, concerns for their safety, and a general lack of respect, our union knows it’s more important than ever to elect candidates who aren’t just “pro-education,” but also pro-educator.
With that in mind, we proudly announce our union’s endorsements for statewide office this November. No single person or office can solve the retention crisis our schools are facing. We need change, up and down the ballot.
Governor: Beto O’Rourke
Lieutenant Governor: Mike Collier
Attorney General: Rochelle Garza
Comptroller of Public Accounts: Janet T. Dudding
Commissioner of General Land Office: Jay Kleberg
Commissioner of Agriculture: Susan Hays
Railroad Commissioner: Luke Warford
Texas Supreme Court, Place 3: Erin A. Nowell
Texas Supreme Court, Place 5: Amanda Reichek
Texas Supreme Court, Place 9: Julia Maldonado
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5: Dana Huffman
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6: Robert Johnson
Why These Endorsements Matter
We need a governor committed to appointing someone with classroom experience to oversee the Texas Education Agency.
We need a lieutenant governor who will push a meaningful increase to the basic allotment that funds our schools through the Legislature.
We need an attorney general who will focus on actual priorities instead of bullying our trans students and suing our school districts for enforcing mask mandates.
We need officials at every level committed to fully funding our schools and who respect all those who work and learn in them. If you’re committed to electing these candidates and demanding the respect we deserve, please sign and share our Respect Pledge. We’ll be asking every candidate to sign on, too.
Beto v. Abbott Public Education
The Texas gubernatorial race is tightening between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke. Beto believes that public education should be about our children. However, Greg Abbott has already underfunded Texas schools by $4,000 per student compared to the national average, while forcing educators to focus more on standardized testing instead of preparing our kids for college and career. Beto has committed to fully funding public schools by investing in teachers and school support staff – increasing their salaries, strengthening their health care, and ensuring that they can retire without stressing over how to pay their bills.
We’re calling this event Texas AFT Summer School, and the agenda is jam-packed:
We’ll define the issues that are driving 66% of Texas school employees to say they’re thinking of leaving the profession. (Spoiler: It’s got something to do with respect.)
We’ll release our newest report in partnership with Battelle for Kids, outlining solutions to these real problems educators identified in focus groups earlier this year.
We’ll highlight the work we’ve done collectively across the state already to win better wages and working conditions in our schools this year — and what we need to do to make real change in the Legislature in 2023.
We’ll sign on to the Respect Pledge together and commit to our shared fight.
Rep. Escobar Cosponsors bill to fully fund special education
Last week, Socorro AFT members met with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) and she agreed to sign on to and cosponsor the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Full Funding Act.
The act would provide Texas with over $2 billion dollars in additional funding for students who need special education (SPED) services.
IDEA, originally passed in 1975, was intended to provide children who have cognitive and physical disabilities with the same educational opportunities that are available to students who do not have disabilities. However, the act has always been ineffective because the federal government has never fully funded the initiative. The federal government is currently fulfilling less than 40% of what they originally pledged to fund when the bill was passed. The IDEA Full Funding Act would compel the federal government to fulfill their entire pledge.
If the IDEA Full Funding Act were passed, Texas would be able to spend on average $3,494 more each year per student with disabilities. With these funds, Texas could compensate SPED teachers more for their important work and hire more SPED teachers and teacher aides to alleviate the stress that SPED teachers are under due to staffing shortages.
The National School Superintendents Association (AASA) recently published data and talking points on their website for advocates to use in support of the IDEA Full Funding Act. On their website, you can also look up how much more your local school district would be owed if IDEA is fully funded.
As of July 15, 130 members of the U.S. House and 30 members of the U.S. Senate have cosponsored the IDEA Full Funding Act. In addition to Rep. Escobar, four other Representatives from the Texas delegation (Colin Allred, Sylvia Garcia, Lizzie Fletcher, and Joaquin Castro) have signed onto the bill as cosponsors. Please send a digital letter to your Senators and Congressperson asking them to cosponsor the IDEA Full Funding Act.
Federal Action on Gun Safety Becomes Law After President Biden Signs Bipartisan Legislation
Late last month, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gun safety bill that was passed by Congress. This legislation comes after yet another devastating mass shooting that occurred in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two teachers. After years of stalling and debate in Congress and countless mass shootings across the country, this legislation is the first gun safety bill to be drafted,
passed through both chambers of Congress, and signed by a sitting president in decades. “At a time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential.” President Biden said.
The legislation includes provisions that have bipartisan support such as incentives for states to pass so-called red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. Additionally, the law expands background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 seeking to buy a gun and expands an existing law (often referred to as closing the “boyfriend loophole”) that prevents people convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun to include dating partners rather than just spouses and former spouses.
Register for Texas AFT’s Student Debt Relief Clinics This Summer
Handling student debt can feel frustrating, time-consuming, and complex. Texas AFT is here to help you with student debt relief. Our union has organized four student debt relief clinics that are available to all members for free. These clinics are virtual over Zoom and have a duration of 90 minutes.
Our upcoming clinics this summer are as follows:
July 27 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
August 10 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
August 31 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
September 14 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Our student debt relief clinics are programs that:
Assess the experience of borrowers in the midst of a national student debt crisis;
Empower borrowers to manage their student debt by giving them information on free federal programs that may lower their monthly payments and lead to their loans being forgiven;
Introduce borrowers to a free AFT member benefit—an online resource called Summer—that will simplify the management of their student loans; and
Engage borrowers in union activism to address the student debt crisis and other important issues in their workplace and community.
Student debt clinics provide our members with important information on two free federal debt relief programs: (1) Income-driven repayment plans, which help determine your monthly payment based on your adjusted gross income and family size and may save you money and (2) Public Service Loan Forgiveness, geared for qualifying federal loan borrowers to have the money they saved using an income-driven repayment plan forgiven after making payments for 10 years while working in public service. You can register for any of the four upcoming clinics here.
Need a rental car? With rising prices on rentals, you’ll need your Texas AFT discount. Pick any of the major brands, including any that you are loyalty members with, and search directly through our member benefits site at UnionPlus.org.You’ll save up to 35%!
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