July 29, 2022: Collier Stands with Educators; House Hears from One Teacher
Publish Date: August 1, 2022 4:12 pm Author: Texas AFT
Texas AFT Launches Statewide Campaign for the Respect Teachers, School Employees Deserve
On Monday, Texas AFT gathered members on Zoom and in person at the Children’s Museum of Houston to officially launch our Respect Us or Expect Us campaign for the 2022 midterm elections and 88th legislative session next year. The launch included a press conference revealing the findings of a series of focus groups with Texas educators, as well as a Texas AFT Summer School event that combined research and data with educator and school employee voices to outline several core components of respect:
Wages that reflect the worth of our work
Fully funded schools that meet our students’ needs
Secure retirement and affordable healthcare
Trust in our professionalism and expertise (without classroom censorship)
Safe working and learning conditions, free from violence
“In the big scheme of things, when I listen to our support staff having to decide on feeding their families, unable to cover medical expenses, or splitting mortgage payments, it truly saddens me,” said Chikita Washington, a paraprofessional in Cy-Fair ISD. “Ultimately, who suffers in this debacle? The students.”
The event also showcased the power of organizing, by highlighting numerous wins by local unions and Associate Membership Program members on employee wages within their districts. You’ll see a full accounting of those wins in a future Hotline.
New Report Provides Solutions for Texas Teacher & Staff Retention Crisis
Nearly 43,000 Texas teachers left their job in the last school year, and a new report commissioned by our union outlines needed solutions to keep teachers and staff in their jobs.
Rio Grande Valley, in addition to two virtual options attended by well over 100 Texas teachers. Texas AFT coordinated with Battelle for Kids, a national education non-profit, to conduct the focus groups.
Nearly half of the recommended solutions identified by Texas educators concerned working conditions, followed by needs for greater compensation and affordable, robust healthcare benefits. Solutions range from actions needed at the local level to measures that should be taken up by the Texas Legislature.
Texas teachers in the focus groups identified several solutions:
Increase staffing and instructional support to increase teachers’ ability to service every student’s unique learning needs.
Decrease the amount of time required for non-learning tasks.
Create paid mentor programs for new professionals.
Allow experienced educators to grow others within the profession and receive financial rewards.
Include teacher voices in state and district policymaking.
The report emphasizes the importance of educator voices in decision-making and policy development. Notably, the report was released as the House Public Education Committee began two days of meetings on a variety of topics with educators themselves notably underrepresented.
“Right now, the House Public Education Committee is meeting for two days in Austin about a slew of issues facing our public education system. You know how many educators Chairman Harold Dutton invited to testify before committee members? One,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “You wonder why so many are leaving the profession? You wonder why our teachers and school staff don’t feel respected? Here’s your answer.”
Members Stretch Their Activism Muscles with the Win Respect Fellowship
This summer, more than 300 teachers and school employees signed up to participate in Texas AFT’s five-week Win Respect Fellowship.
After five virtual sessions that helped participants sharpen their organizing and activism skills, 46 AFT members from across the state graduated from the fellowship.
These graduates include members of both local unions and the Associate Membership Program, and they were celebrated at the launch event this past weekend. So far, graduates have scheduled 14 meetings with state representatives and senators to share their personal stories and to encourage officials to sign on to our Respect Pledge.
Elected Officials, Candidates Sign on to the Respect Pledge
Two legislators, Rep. Ron Reynolds and Rep. Jon Rosenthal, along with Texas AFT-endorsed state comptroller candidate Janet Dudding, attended the event and signed on to our Respect Pledge, vowing their public support for increased public education funding.
Marathon Meetings of the House Public Education Committee
In back-to-back late night hearings on Monday and Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee heard invited and public testimony on a number of interim charges.
Monday’s agenda was a pick-up agenda from an early adjournment on May 24 due to the Uvalde tragedy. The committee hosted panels on the implementation of HB 3 and its subsequent clean-up bill HB 1525, including panels on fast-growth districts, the teacher incentive allotment (TIA), reading academies, special education funding, and chronic absenteeism. A common refrain throughout the day was a call to increase the basic allotment to bring in additional needed funding to fairly compensate teachers and staff in districts and to remove arbitrary caps on spending in order for districts to get the resources they need to effectively serve students.
Tuesday’s hearing brought in several high-profile issues, including an SBOE defense of its veto of edTPA, workforce development and CTE funding, instructional materials, and parent “empowerment.” Mike Morath, commissioner of education, presented that district-selected instructional materials were of low quality and that decisions regarding these materials should be returned to the SBOE (effectively the TEA). This is troublesome because it would remove local control of these materials and give authority back to the state. The “parent empowerment” panel was set up to be a clear endorsement for charters and voucher schemes. Public testimony went late into the evening.
Shockingly, over two days of testimony and over 90 invited witnesses, only one was an active teacher. When Texas AFT pointed out this fact on Twitter, Committee Chair Harold Dutton, who is in charge of soliciting invited testimony, responded on twitter during the hearing that “if you have real answers, then share that with your Representative.” Dozens of AFT members have already scheduled meetings with their representatives ahead of the 88th Legislative session next year, but Rep. Dutton doesn’t respect the perspective of educators enough to invite them to testify publicly. This committee has made it clear that they do not value the voices of professional educators or educator organizations.
This ongoing omission of teacher voices must stop. Texas AFT is working to ensure our voices are included in every conversation that happens about this profession.
Mike Collier Defends Public Education Funding; Stands with the majority (53%) of likely Texas voters that are against taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs
Last week, Texas AFT’s endorsed candidate for Lt. Governor Mike Collier was attacked by far-right politicians and pundits when he asserted his support for public schools. In a clip taken from his speech at the Texas Democratic Convention and then posted by him on Twitter, Collier criticizes his opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has supported privatization policies, such as private school vouchers, which would take money away from public schools. In the clip, Collier announced that as Lt. Governor he would push through an amendment to the Texas constitution to ban private school vouchers.
Private school vouchers take away money from already underfunded public schools and send it to private schools; wealthy families who already send their children to private schools are given a taxpayer-funded subsidy for their private school tuition. A recent Texas Parent PAC poll shows most parents support their local neighborhood public school (58%) and only one in four would choose to send their child to private school.
Rural areas are perhaps the most adversely affected by private school voucher schemes. The Parent PAC suggests 73% of rural parents are concerned that defunding public education at the state level to fund voucher schemes would take away money from rural school districts, forcing these school districts to educate the same amount of kids with less funding.
Despite these well-documented problems with private school voucher schemes, “school choice” advocates like Senator Ted Cruz, State Senator Paul Bettencourt, Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham, and former NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch relentlessly attacked Collier on Twitter for his support of Texas public schools.
Mike Collier has been a longtime advocate for public schools. We appreciate Collier for repeatedly defending public school teachers and students from attacks by those who wish to privatize and profit off of our students and our schools. A recent poll from the University of Houston showed Mike Collier within 5 points of Dan Patrick amongst likely voters.
The Clock Is Ticking on the PSLF Waiver! 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 get 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 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 includes plans that 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.
These clinics are all more important following recent moves by the Department of Education. Spurred by an AFT lawsuit, the Department of Education announced sweeping changes to the program that will make it easier to qualify and easier to achieve forgiveness. Here’s what we know so far.
For a limited time only through October 31, 2022, a Limited PSLF Waiver to count previous payments that were previously ineligible because of loan types or repayment plan.
More loan types qualify. The change will apply to Direct loans (previously the only type that counted for PSLF), FFEL loans, and Perkins loans, even if they were already consolidated into Direct loans in the past.
All repayment plans qualify. All repayment plans will also now qualify for PSLF under the waiver.
Additional expansions. Previously, payments only counted towards PSLF if they were the exact dollar amount owed and paid on the exact date owed. This is no longer the case. If you made an “overpayment” or “underpayment” and on a different date, these can now count towards PSLF.
No employment requirement at time of forgiveness. The Department of Education has removed the requirement that borrowers need to still be working in public service full time at the time they receive forgiveness.
Policies from the DOE are moving in the right direction to make student loan forgiveness easier and more accessible to borrowers.
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.
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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