July 22, 2022: AFT and Texas Democratic Convention Recap, TX Ledge Report on Uvalde

This Monday, Texas AFT Summer School Is In Session — and Respect Is on the Agenda

Vacant school hallway.

With a return to school approaching, districts across the state still have hundreds and hundreds of teaching vacancies to fill — not to mention shortages of staff in other crucial areas. 


It’s no surprise. Our union has been sounding the alarm for months, since 66% of our members told us they were seriously considering leaving education. The state has underfunded our schools, the Legislature has heaped on unfunded mandates like Reading Academies, and 90% of school employees in Texas tell us they worry their campus could be the next to experience mass gun violence. 


On Monday, Texas AFT will launch our statewide campaign for what teachers and staff deserve: respect. 


We invite all members and allies to join us in Houston or on Zoom to talk about what true respect means, how we’re going to win it together, and what we’ll be fighting for in midterm elections and the 2023 legislative session. 


Texas AFT Summer School: 

Our Campaign for Respect

10 a.m.–noon CT

Monday, July 25

RSVP to attend in person or via Zoom

Can’t make it Monday? Join us for our first statewide Respect campaign call at 6 p.m. CT, Thursday, July 28. Register via Zoom!

Legislature’s Investigative Report on Uvalde Shooting Details Failed Law Enforcement Response, Inadequate School Safety

On Sunday, the Texas Legislature’s investigative committee released a thorough and damning report regarding the tragic mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. The report details the inadequate response by law enforcement as well as missed red flags about the gunman, resulting in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers. 

The report also highlights the lack of leadership by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police Chief Pete Arredondo, who argues he did not take control of the immediate response because of a loose assumption that other law enforcement officials would take charge of key decision-making. Several described the scene as “chaos” or a “cluster,” according to the report.  


Additionally, the report details how the school itself was vulnerable to the gunman entering the building because of poor security, unlocked doors, and poor communication alerts to faculty, staff, and students. Many teachers were unaware of the shooting as it was taking place because of poor wireless internet signal that made it difficult to send a mass alert. Robb Elementary Principal Mandy Gutierrez also never attempted to communicate the lockdown over the school’s intercom system, the report details. 


The investigative report also highlights missed warning signs from the gunman prior to the tragedy. The gunman had a history of strained relationships with his parents, little to any social bonds or friendships, and a troubled economic history, having been fired from two fast-food jobs and with past reported workplace hostilities. He had asked social connections to help with purchasing guns prior to turning 18, the legal age in Texas to purchase a gun. He deceived a family uncle into driving him to a local gun shop to purchase a weapon without directly asking. The gunman’s uncle was shocked by the news, claiming he never suspected any wrongdoing because the gun shop at which the shooter acquired the weapon he used to kill 21 people was also a popular restaurant.  Ultimately, the report details no attempt by anyone who interacted with the gunman to alert authorities about his troubling behavior.


The committee notably criticized state officials for misleading the public, which includes Gov. Greg Abbott’s immediate response to the tragedy. While the committee recognizes that it can take substantial time to answer every question that could arise in the wake of a crime, “one would expect law enforcement during a briefing would be very careful to state what facts are verifiable, and which ones are not.” 


At this time, the governor’s office has not provided a comment on the legislative report. Based on the information provided in this report, it’s clear the shooting and the flawed response have undermined community trust, even outside of Uvalde. 90% of Texas school employees surveyed by Texas AFT in June said they feared their campus could be next and wanted substantive changes made to safety protocols and gun laws. 

The committee concludes its report, by noting, “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue.”

Lowering the IRA has significant ramifications for the possibility of TRS retirees receiving a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their TRS monthly annuity.

Last week, the Teachers Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees met for their quarterly meeting and voted to lower the pension fund’s yearly investment return assumption (IRA) from 7.25% to 7%. The IRA is used by TRS to calculate its funding period (also referred to as the amortization period), which is the length of time it would take for TRS to pay off all its current fiscal obligations, which include monthly annuity payments 


The lowering of the IRA reflects a more conservative outlook for the pension fund’s future. This change makes TRS’ future more secure but leaves TRS with less budget maneuverability. TRS is now assuming it will receive less in investment returns each year, which would have significantly extended the funding period had the TRS board not voted to realize $7 billion in deferred gains from last year. That move kept the funding period at 26 years instead of increasing to 32 years. 


Last year, TRS broke records with total investment assets passing $200 billion because of a 24.98% return on investment. Despite those returns last year, it is unlikely TRS will maintain this historically positive growth. TRS’ vote to adopt a more conservative IRA and to realize last year’s deferred gains is an indication that the agency anticipates economic insecurity. According to testimony from a consultant hired by TRS, more than 70% of the nation’s pension plans have an IRA at or below 7% as of June 2022.

Lowering the IRA has significant ramifications for the possibility of TRS retirees receiving a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their TRS monthly annuity.

Lowering the IRA does make TRS more secure in the long run, but it extends the funding period. This does not mean a significant COLA is impossible; it simply means the Texas Legislature likely would have to appropriate funds to TRS to make it happen. 


The state, though, has ample funds they can draw from to fund this appropriation.


Last week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced he would be raising the state’s revenue estimate for November by nearly $14 billion. This increase is due to a variety of factors including increasing fossil fuel prices, from which the state receives tax revenue, and general inflation. In response to this increase in state revenue, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced that he intended to use these excess funds to provide retirees with another 13th check in 2023, which would be the third such check retirees have received since 2019. Meanwhile, TRS retirees who have retired since 2004 have never seen a permanent cost-of-living adjustment to their monthly annuities.


Texas AFT and our members know another 13th check band-aid isn’t enough. Retired educators deserve respect, and that respect includes a secure, dignified retirement. Our union will continue to fight for a significant COLA, and we encourage our members statewide to request their elected representatives to sign on to our Respect Pledge in support of this effort.

2022 AFT Convention Recap: Texas AFT Members Recognized for Wage Victories, Union Growth

Last week, AFT members from across the country met in Boston, Massachusetts, for AFT’s 87th Biennial Convention. Texas AFT was represented at the convention by more than 30 delegates, led by Texas AFT President Zeph Capo. Delegates participated in a wide array of programming, including special recognition of certain locals for their union victories, several business items, and a slew of special guest speakers,

Aldine AFT President Candis Houston and McAllen AFT President Sylvia Tanguma received the “Pride of the Union” award from AFT President Randi Weingarten for their work to significantly increase their membership in their locals. This award was presented to a select group of locals from across the country.


Texas AFT President Zeph Capo spoke on the floor of the AFT convention to highlight Texas AFT’s work. Zeph explained that teachers and school staff in Texas were being overworked and underpaid but Texas AFT locals are fighting back. Despite being a so-called “right-to-work” state that bans collective bargaining, Texas AFT local unions and Associate Membership Program members have continued to achieve a number of key victories. While speaking on the floor, Zeph was flanked by Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson and Dallas Alliance-AFT President Rena Honea, whose unions won significant pay raises for DISD and HISD teachers. 


Zeph was re-elected as an AFT vice president along with the rest of AFT’s executive leadership. Aside from these leadership positions, AFT delegates also voted to pass a wide range of resolutions including: 

  • Community Schools: Helping Students Thrive in Our Schools and Communities, resolving that AFT will advocate for funding at the federal level dedicated specifically for creating additional community schools and supporting the hiring of community school directors/coordinators to lead the critical work of aligning community services with family and student needs.
  • A special order of business to adopt the AFT’s “Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force Report,” which is the culmination of in-depth member surveys, multiple listening sessions, numerous virtual and in-person task force meetings, input from top researchers, the hard work of AFT elected leaders and staff, and the guidance of AFT national officers.
  • Living Wages for All AFT Members, which pledges that AFT will offer tools, resources, and support to any local union with members who earn less than a living wage and want to undertake a campaign to raise wages to a living-wage standard.

In addition to these business items, AFT delegates were joined by a variety of guest speakers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Ed Markey, Sec. of Labor Marty Walsh, and First Lady Jill Biden.


2022 Texas Democratic Convention Recap: Candidates Flocked Texas AFT’s Respect Educators Caucus


Last weekend, dozens of Texas AFT members attended the 2022 Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas.


Respect Slate

A number of Texas AFT’s endorsed candidates took the stage, including Beto O’Rourke, Mike Collier, and Rochelle Garza — all members of what we call the “Respect Slate,” a full ballot of statewide candidates who have vowed their support for public education and educators.

Respect Educators Caucus 

Texas AFT hosted a caucus meeting in which our members heard directly from candidates and elected officials about the issues that matter most to Texas teachers and school employees

State Senator Royce West addressing Texas AFT members at our Respect Educators caucus at the 2022 Texas Democratic Convention.

At our union’s booth in the exhibit hall, Texas AFT staff enjoyed meeting active and retired school employees and having discussions about your priorities. You are our union, and your voices guide our political and policy priorities.

The Texas Democratic Party is close to adopting a platform that is strong on public education. Thank you to our own Patty Quinzi, director for Public Affairs, for volunteering her time to help lead the effort.

With more than 650,000 school employees in this state, we have power. And candidates and elected officials are paying attention. In Beto O’Rourke’s latest fundraising haul for his campaign for governor, teachers were a driving force behind his campaign, having contributed more than any other profession.

Let us continue building our power and working through November to demand the respect we deserve.

Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, called for a constitutional amendment banning vouchers in his speech at the 2022 Texas Democratic Convention.

The Clock Is Ticking on the PSLF Waiver! Register for Texas AFT’s Student Debt Relief Clinics This Summer

Handling student debt can be 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 for members — all free. These clinics are virtual via Zoom and will last 90 minutes. 


Our upcoming clinics this summer are as follows:


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.

Texas AFT Bridges Institute: Virtual T-TESS Trainings

The Texas AFT Bridges Institute for Professional Development will host two virtual trainings on the ins and outs of T-TESS evaluations. The trainings are free, and participants can earn professional development credit.


Taking Ownership of Your Evaluation: T-TESS Trainings


6-7:30 p.m. CT

Wednesday, Aug. 3


6-7:30 p.m. CT

Wednesday, Sept. 7

Register Online for Either Session

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%!