July 8, 2022: Texas introduces random intruder audits; SBOE prevents TEKS whitewashing
Publish Date: July 8, 2022 3:16 pm Author: Texas AFT
Texas to Begin “Random Intruder Detection Audits” this Coming Academic Year
In this coming academic year, Texas State University’s Texas School Safety Center will conduct random intruder audits in every school district across the state. The stated goal of these exercises will be to identify weak access points on 75% of Texas school campuses. Gov. Greg Abbott approved this new directive in response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 students and two teachers dead in May. This decision comes after advocates voiced criticisms and concerns about the lack of a state response.
The idea of getting “grown men to show up to schools unannounced and try as hard as they can to find a way in” is of great concern, Texas AFT-endorsed State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio said in response to the new directive. The TXSC was directed to coordinate with local law and state law enforcement agencies, but they will not inform schools when those security audits will take place or when they are finished.
Texas AFT joins advocates and organizations in expressing skepticism and concern about the governor’s new directive. The No. 1 priority in our public schools is the safety of students and the staff who support them every day. However, a directive to this degree with no coordination or transparency with school districts could have unintended consequences and make our public schools less safe.
Latest Update on Social Studies TEKS Revisions Highlights the Need to Remain Vigilant
Last week, reports surfaced that the State Board of Education (SBOE) received a draft recommendation from their appointed K-2 social studies working group to refer to the kidnapping and brutal transport into bondage of Africans not as “slavery” but as “involuntary relocation.”
The draft recommendations, which have not been published by the Texas Education Agency, were presented to the SBOE as part of a larger progress report to board members by the people they appointed to serve on the writing teams for the revision of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies. The offending language was caught by SBOE member Aicha Davis, and with support from the entire board, the chair gave direction to reconsider the recommendation.
The attempt to sanitize this standard is almost certainly the intended consequence ofSenate Bill 3 87(2) which states, among other intentionally ambiguous language, that public schools may only teach that “slavery and racism are … deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality” and bans teaching the truth about slavery and its role in our shared history.
Importantly, the SBOE’s process for standards revision is designed to seek input from experts and the public. In this case, the process functioned as it was intended and this incorrect and whitewashed language was not allowed to move forward and be adopted into the curriculum. Texas AFT has been and will continue to work with a large coalition of experts and activists to ensure the social studies TEKS, set for adoption this November, contain factual and truthful information so that our teachers may lead their classrooms free from censorship.
Texas AFT Prepares For Texas Democratic Party Convention in Dallas
Next week, Texas AFT members and the state federation staff will be heading to Dallas for the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) Convention. Over 70 Texas AFT members were selected as convention delegates and will vote and serve on a number of committees at the convention, and Director of Public Affairs Patty Quinzi will serve as the chair of the platform committee, which is tasked with drafting the Texas Democratic platform. Texas AFT will have a booth at the convention and will invite delegates from across the state to our caucus room for a presentation.
The convention will feature a number of distinguished speakers, including Texas AFT-endorsed candidates Beto O’Rourke, Mike Collier, Rep. Jessica González, Rep. Julie Johnson, Rep. Gina Hinojosa, Rep. Donna Howard, Sen. Roland Gutierrez, and many more. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy will also speak at the convention. A full schedule of convention events is available on the TDP Convention website.
One of the most significant items that will be voted on at the convention is the position of TDP Chair. Texas AFT President Zeph Capo, state federation staff, and several AFT members who are convention delegates were given the opportunity to speak with the candidates for the position:
Gilberto Hinojosa, who has served as TDP chair for the past 10 years
Carroll Robinson, chair of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats
Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel and former congressional candidate.
Texas AFT has not endorsed any candidate for the position, though Texas AFT delegates will have the opportunity to discuss the election among themselves in a closed caucus meeting before voting.
Jen Ramos, a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) and a prominent activist based in Austin, recorded a training session for TDP delegates to inform them of what they should expect at the convention. If you’re attending the convention, we encourage you to watch the training.
Texas AFT Retirees seek nomination to TRS Board of Trustees
Texas AFT Retiree+ members Craig Adams and Phyllis Ruffin are seeking the nomination for two open positions on the Teacher Retirement System of Texas’ Board of Trustees. The TRS Board of Trustees is responsible for administering TRS and making decisions regarding TRS’ $200 billion investment fund.
Though the TRS Board of Trustees is not responsible for setting the amount in monthly annuities that retirees receive, the decisions the board makes impact the health of the fund, which has been identified by the Legislature as a key factor when considering the passage of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
Craig Adams is a retired teacher who taught in Spring Branch ISD, Stafford ISD, and the Houston Community College System, among other places. Craig comes from a family of educators. His parents, his sister, and his niece all served or are currently serving as educators in Texas public schools. Craig retired in 2011 and has been receiving retirement benefits since then. Craig is running for the “Retiree” position on the board. Any TRS member who is currently retired and receiving benefits may sign Craig’s online nomination petition now and is eligible to vote for him when the voting begins in March 2023.
Phyllis Ruffin is a retired teacher and paraprofessional who taught in Alief ISD. Phyllis is a single mom who, at one point, had to work four jobs at the same time to provide for her family. Phyllis’ mantra is “lift while you climb.” As Phyllis moved up in her career, she always made sure to support and uplift others. Phyllis is an active volunteer at her church, her local YMCA, and the Houston Chapter of the NAACP. Phyllis is running for the “At-Large” position on the board. Both active and retired TRS members may sign Phyllis’ online nomination petition now and are eligible to vote for her when the voting begins in March 2023.
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