July 21, 2023: The Will to Thrive

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

Friday, July 21, 2023

Image reads: Thrive together by speaking out.

The Will to Thrive

So far, no statistics have motivated our state leaders to fix the chronic underfunding of our public education system. 

Not the fact that Texas is 39th in the nation for per-pupil funding of its public schools. 

Nor the fact that we are 28th in the nation and $7,700 below the national average for teacher pay. 

Not even the fact that 98% of our students are attending public school campuses without adequate staffing of nurses, counselors, psychologists, or social workers. 

But perhaps this ranking will spur action: For the first time, Texas has dropped out of the top five in CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business study.  

Why? The biggest dings on our state’s record arose from weakness in infrastructure, health care, and education.

Teachers and school staff in Texas have been berated by elected officials about the need for accountability — the importance of quantifying their instruction of students. The state’s largest school district, now occupied by a Texas Education Agency-appointed superintendent and board of managers, will soon force its teachers into a performance-pay scheme

If accountability is so important — if numbers don’t lie — why is the state of Texas sitting on a $32.7 billion surplus without spending a cent of it to fully fund public schools? How far do the rankings need to fall?

Maybe it’s time you called your representative and asked.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • We unpack the attempted private school voucher coup that derailed any significant progress for public education in the Legislature.
  • Take 5 minutes this weekend for two actions with big impact.
  • Threats to public schools aren’t just coming from our state government. We have news from D.C.

— Legislature

Unpacking the Legislature: School Privatization

Rio Grande Valley community members, including McAllen AFT, protest outside with no voucher signs an April stop on Gov. Abbott’s voucher roadshow.

Rio Grande Valley community members, including McAllen AFT, protest outside an April stop on Gov. Abbott’s voucher roadshow. Photo by Clarissa Riojas.

Over the course of the regular legislative session, one topic cast a shadow over the entire  public education conversation. That topic wasn’t the harmful overtesting of our state’s children. That topic wasn’t our state’s severely underfunded classrooms. That topic wasn’t even our state’s severely underpaid and disrespected education workforce.

Discussions of private school vouchers overshadowed all these important issues and sidetracked any progress on addressing them. As was discussed earlier in our “Unpacking the Legislature” series, the voucher issue directly tanked any hope for even a meager increase in education funding that legislators put on the table this session.

Even though our members’ advocacy stopped the Legislature from passing vouchers in the regular session, their shadow has not yet been lifted. This week, we unpack why our legislators have prioritized diverting funds to private institutions instead of fully funding our public schools. We also look to the future as we prepare for the next chapter of this assault on public education.

— Legislature

2 Actions to Take This Weekend

Image reads: Vouchers hurt public schools.

Do you want the Legislature defining ‘educational opportunity’ without you? 

The 15 lawmakers on the Texas House’s Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment are writing recommendations about our public schools this month! They need to hear from teachers, school staff, and parents that “educational opportunity” for kids means fully funded public schools — not vouchers. Send a letter to committee members today.

Image reads: retired educators need relief. Vote C-O-L-A yes.

COLA is on the ballot this November. Will you be there? 

This week, Texas AFT Retiree Plus kicked off its efforts to win a cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators at the ballot box this November. For more information on that COLA (and why voters will decide on it), read our recap, Unpacking the Legislature: Retired Educator COLA. It’s critical we turn out as many Texans to the polls as possible. You can help by signing on to vote and volunteer.

— National

U.S. Congress Could Slash Education Funding by Billions

In Washington, D.C., last week, the Republican-controlled House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee announced a new bill that could result in the removal of an estimated 220,000 teaching positions nationwide.

The bill calls for $64 billion in budget cuts next year, with more than $20 billion of those cuts aimed at education programs.

In its current form, the bill would reduce U.S. Department of Education funding to its lowest levels since 2006. These cuts would affect both K-12 education and higher education funding. Notably, the plan would cut Title I grants to Local Education by $14.7 billion, down to just $3.7 billion in total. 

Despite these billions of dollars in cuts, the subcommittee did increase funding for one program: charter schools. The bill would increase Charter School Program (CSP) funding, which goes directly to new and expanding charter schools, by $10 million.

A-F-T logo

AFT Member Benefits: Share My Lesson

Need a lesson plan on a specific topic? No problem.  

Looking for professional development credits that actually help you connect with your students? Sure thing.

Share My Lesson is a curated online database of high-quality lesson plans and resources — available to you for free. You can search by grade level or look at special collections designed to connect students with current events and themes.

Your union is dedicated to helping you thrive. That’s why the team at Share My Lesson created this space, with the help of local AFT leaders, to serve as your one-stop destination for high-quality, educator-vetted materials for teachers, higher education faculty, and school staff.

Even in Texas, we still #TeachTheTruth. With the diverse offerings from Share My Lesson, that task is made easier. Sign up today online as you prepare for the school year.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Teachers strong-armed to get on board with Houston schools takeover. Since the Texas Education Agency appointed Mike Miles to lead Houston ISD, he has faced community protests by citizens opposed to the state agency’s takeover. But he has maintained that schools are embracing his changes. But interviews, email correspondence, and audio recordings of campus meetings that the Texas Observer obtained contradict Miles’ public relations message that there is widespread teacher support for his program. (Texas Observer, July 14) 


🎧 A perfect day for the Legislature to go away. After a 7-month standoff, Republican leadership in Austin finally settled on their plan to offer property tax relief to Texans. Plus, Jeremy reports from the border on the fact that Texas’ security efforts are often actually just getting in the way of Border Patrol. Join the conversation with Scott Braddock, editor of The Quorum Report, and Houston Chronicle political writer Jeremy Wallace. (Texas Take podcast, July 14) 

📖 Brazosport ISD is training its own teachers. The program might become a model for other Texas schools. The small district’s apprenticeship program lets aspiring teachers earn a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification at no cost. In return, participants must work at the district for at least three years. Observers hope state lawmakers will use the program as a model for legislation. (Texas Tribune, July 18)