June 14, 2024: The Future of Our Schools

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

Monday, June 17, 2024

Last week’s Hotline was delayed to today due to technical difficulties on Friday, June 14th.

Texas Democrats Unite to Defend Public Education at 2024 State Convention

This past weekend, Texas Democrats gathered in El Paso for their 2024 state convention, and the tone could not have been more different from the Texas GOP Convention held in San Antonio in late May.  


As speaker after speaker took the stage, one issue resonated above all others: the urgent need to protect public education from Republican attacks. Democrats were unified in their opposition to Governor Abbott’s private school voucher scheme and the ongoing assault against higher education. Elected officials, candidates, and community activists emphasized their determination throughout the weekend to elect a pro-public education majority in the Texas House of Representatives to safeguard neighborhood schools and shield our institutions of higher education from Republican extremism. 


The convention made crystal clear that the fate of public education hinges on the outcome of just a handful of races this November. With at least seven battleground Texas House districts in play, many in areas with underfunded schools, there is a real path for Democrats to make the gains needed to stop vouchers and pass transformative investments in our schools. 


Educators and school employees across the state are ready to lead the charge to engage our colleagues, parents, and the public in this existential fight for the future of our schools. The passion and energy to protect public education was palpable at the Texas Democratic Convention. Now, it’s up to all of us to channel that energy into votes and victories in November. We must go all-in – block walking, phone banking, donating, engaging friends and neighbors – to send an unmistakable message at the ballot box that Texans stand with our neighborhood schools. 

In this week’s Hotline:  

  • We recap the Texas Democratic State Convention above where Democrats displayed unity to defend against the relentless attacks on public education.  
  • With STAAR results data being released, we look at what trends are revealed and explore factors that impact student results.  
  • Classroom teachers: What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence in education? Tell us with a quick survey.
  • Do you plan on retiring or are you retired? Long-time corporate supporter, Horace-Mann, is hosting a series of webinars to help you with retirement planning.  

— STAAR Testing

Image reads: school districts like mine are slashing budgets, jobs and it's governor abbot's fault.

What STAAR Scores Actually Measure: Beyond the Classroom 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently released data on high school STAAR test results, showing an improvement in students’ performance on English II but remaining largely stagnant from the prior year and still catching up to pre-COVID levels. 

The Austin American-Statesman reported that, “Students who met grade level for the English I test remained at 54% this year, while the students who met English II standards increased to 60% from 56% last year — both higher than pre-pandemic scores, according to TEA data.”

The recent STAAR test results reveal a persistent struggle among Texas high school student’s post-pandemic, particularly in Algebra I, with only 45% meeting grade level. Low-income students consistently score lower across all subjects than their non-economically disadvantaged peers. For instance, 35% of low-income students met the grade level in Algebra I, compared to 61% of other students.  


Emergent bilingual students stand out as a notable exception to the general trend of students struggling to reach pre-COVID performance levels. These students have made gains in every subject except algebra compared to their pre-pandemic scores, although they still perform below their peers overall. 

These statistics and the persistent, significant drop from pre-pandemic scores highlight a critical issue:  the problem lies not with the students but within the broader systemic challenges they face due in large part to the state’s chronically underfunding public schools and resources for student well-being. The correlation is plain to see. 

Read the full story below.  

— Survey 

AI Technology in Education: Share Your Thoughts & Win a Gift Card! 

The headlines we’ve seen in recent months about artificial intelligence (AI) can be anxiety-inducing. 


Texas AFT members have reported concerns about students using tools like ChatGPT to skirt assignments, while the Texas Education Agency has begun using computers to grade students’ written answers on this year’s STAAR. However, this emerging technology can also be exhilarating for those looking for new ways to engage students in learning or take tedious, repetitive tasks off their plates. 


Meanwhile, the Texas House of Representatives has established an Artificial Intelligence & Emerging Technologies subcommittee for this interim period between legislative sessions. The subcommittee’s stated purpose: “to determine the ways AI is integrated into our everyday lives and the potential security risks that come along with the emerging technology.”  

For this and many other reasons, Texas AFT wants to be prepared to speak on issues of AI in public education and provide resources, training, and advice for our members. To do so, we need to hear from you on how you feel about generative AI technology (tools like Microsoft Copilot, ChatGPT, or MagicSchool.ai that enable you to quickly generate new content) and how you may already be using it. 


We encourage all Texas AFT members to take our brief survey, which we expect will take 10 minutes or less to complete. Out of respect for your valuable time, everyone who completes the survey will be entered to win one of eight $25 gift cards to the First Book Marketplace. 


Click here to take the survey.Your input is essential as we navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of AI in education. 

— Event

Is your retirement account ready for every day being a Saturday? 

Hey there, future retiree (or maybe you’re already there, living the dream in your pajamas – we won’t judge!), let’s face it: retirement planning can be about as exciting as watching paint dry. But fear not! Long-time corporate supporter, Horace Mann is here to inject a little fun and a lot of knowledge into your journey with Horace Mann’s Retirement Income Distribution webinar. 

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Learn: Horace Mann will decipher all that confusing jargon and turn it into actionable steps for a secure retirement. 
  • Reflect: When do you want to retire? What do you want to do in retirement?
  • Get your questions answered: How do you know if you have enough money saved? How long will it last? 

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only, and should not be considered a recommendation, investment, tax or legal advice. Representatives of HMII provide general information concerning retirement income planning only. HMII and its representatives do not provide financial planning services. Horace Mann Service Corporation and certain of its affiliates (Horace Mann) enter into agreements with educational associations where Horace Mann pays the association to familiarize association members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services. Contact association.relations@horacemann.com for more information. 


EMR-00788 (Apr. 24) 

Recommended Reading

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

📖 I am an HISD teacher. After a year of disrespect, I am ready to leave. Jennifer Mathieu Blessington writes: Teachers are professionals, but over the course of my nearly two decades in the classroom, I have felt increasingly less like one. The nationwide teacher shortage suggests I am not alone. This administration has been especially egregious, approaching HISD as if it is a chain of fast-food restaurants that can be fixed with a better quality-control system. (Houston Chronicle, June 8)  

📖 Thousands of Texas teachers will get cut of multi-million dollar incentive fund Tens of thousands of Texas teachers will get a cut from a multi-million dollar incentive fund. The Texas legislature created the Teacher Incentive Allotment program back in 2019 to boost teacher pay. For this past school year, the Texas Education Agency will distribute $290 million toward that purpose. Roughly 25,000 teachers are eligible for a payout. How much a teacher gets paid will depend on their tier level designated by their district. (Fox 7 Austin, June 13) 

📖 Federal judge strikes down Biden administration guidance meant to protect LGBTQ students A North Texas federal judge Tuesday threw out Biden administration guidance saying gender identity and sexual orientation are covered by Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. The Department of Education issued guidance documents in June 2021 indicating it would interpret Title IX to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That interpretation was grounded in a Supreme Court decision the previous year that found a different ban on sex discrimination included those protections. Critics such as Paxton have argued the department’s interpretation of that ruling was misguided. (Dallas Morning News, June 11)