Texas AFT will be holding its virtual state convention on Friday and Saturday.
Tell our State Board of Education to reject charter expansion
They foster inequality, lack accountability, and gobble up $3.6 billion of funding each year that should go to our public education system. Profit drives their expansion; not a sincere dedication to educating kids.
It’s ridiculous. It’s unsustainable. And it must be addressed by the State Board of Education this week during their upcoming meeting. Can you help us send a message to SBOE members and urge them to say NO to more expensive, unequal charter schools this week?
We need to protect our neighborhood public schools from San Antonio to Houston, from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso.
SBOE meets this week to consider new charter applications
Seven new charter applications have been approved by the commissioner of education and are up for final approval or veto by the elected State Board of Education this week. It’s important to remember that once a charter is approved and meets certain minimal TEA requirements, it can apply to TEA to open an unlimited number of new campuses anywhere in the state. Texas AFT will be there Tuesday to testify against the further expansion of unaccountable charter schools. One of our union’s priorities is stopping the expansion of charter schools in Texas. Why? They foster inequality, lack accountability, and gobble up $3.6 billion of funding each year that should go to our public education system. Profit drives their expansion; not a sincere dedication to educating kids.
A dual education system is unsustainable. And it must be addressed by the State Board of Education, the only elected oversight there is for charter schools in Texas.
Please help by writing to your SBOE member to say that more unaccountable charter schools are not welcome in Texas. We need to protect our neighborhood public schools from San Antonio to Houston, from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso.
Charter schools lose at the Texas Supreme Court
Last week, the Texas Supreme Court in Odyssey 2020 Academy Inc. v. Galveston County Appraisal District ruled that a charter school could not claim a tax exemption for its leased property. The court said, “The Constitution does not authorize an exemption for leased property that is privately owned but deemed public by statute,” and “A public entity must actually own the property.” The court added, “if the Legislature wants to exempt a property owner who leases to a charter school, it can amend the Texas Constitution.”
During the regular legislative session, charter advocates barely passed a heavily amended HB 3610, mustering 65 votes of the 150-member Texas House and facing sharp bipartisan opposition in the House and Senate. The bill provides a property tax exemption for public school leases. Pro-public education advocates warned that the bill was unconstitutional, and even the bill’s fiscal note clearly warned that the bill needed a constitutional amendment (which needs two-thirds approval of all members of each house). With the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling declaring that these private-property charter leases need a constitutional amendment to effectuate an exemption from property taxes, it is clear that HB 3610 is expressly unconstitutional and cannot take effect.
Abbott: ‘More must be done’ to ban Critical Race Theory
Gov. says he will add the issue to a special session
As if HB 3979 wasn’t bad enough already, Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that he will add the bill’s topic—bans on controversial subjects, particularly those around racism, from being taught in the classroom—to an impending special session. That signal came as the governor nevertheless signed the bill and released a statement that said: “House Bill 3979 is a strong move to abolish critical race theory in Texas, but more must be done. The issue will be added to a special session agenda.”
HB 3979 had a long, strange trip through the Legislature this spring. In its original form it was presented as a civics bill that required the teaching of several writings foundational to the birth of the United States. But other language in the bill addressing controversial topics over race made it immediately clear that the legislation was intended to be a ban on teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project—which a wave of Republican-controlled legislatures across the country have been trying to ban in the past couple of months. While the Critical Race theory mainly explores the intersection of the law and race, and the 1619 Project essays highlight little-known issues around slavery, they nonetheless have become a target for conservative activists around the country.
Now Gov. Abbott has joined the fray and likely intends to try and pass legislation that is more implicit in banning CRT and the 1619 Project, while also cutting out a series of additions for required curriculum that Democrats added to the bill with amendments—such as writings on civil rights, slavery, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and the labor movement. (The Senate, facing a tight deadline at the end of the session, was forced to pass the House’s version of the bill.)
With a law that already stifles freedom of speech and any well-nuanced instruction on the role of racism and slavery in our country’s founding, it’s concerning that the governor wants to push the agenda of white-washing our history even further. Texas AFT values the professionalism of our teachers to be free to present accurate and balanced information when teaching controversial subjects. We will be ready to fight this legislation when it surfaces in a special session, the date for which has not been announced yet.
Governor vetoes funding for Legislature, puts state employee pay at risk
In a retaliatory move against lawmakers who failed to pass his priority voter suppression bill, Gov. Abbott on Friday vetoed the section of the state budget that funds the Legislature. Abbott had threatened the veto after Democratic House members walked out and broke quorum to kill the elections bill, SB 7, at the end of the session.
Abbott’s veto means thousands of lawmaker staffers and hundreds of other state employees who support the legislative process could lose their pay after September 1. However, the situation could be resolved with action by the Legislature if—as the governor has indicated—it will meet in special session to address the voter suppression bill and other legislation supported by the governor that failed to pass this spring.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner of Grand Prairie released a statement calling the governor’s action an “abuse of power,” and he vowed to fight back against the move. “Texas has a governor, not a dictator. The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that [Abbott] is simply out of control.”
Local unions successful in winning pay raises, retention bonuses
Unlike 2019’s state legislation that sent new money to school districts for required pay increases, local school boards are responsible for all compensation changes.
Our local unions have been working on campaigns for the past two months pushing for higher pay for all school employees. Here’s a list of recent successes and some ongoing action campaigns to help push for a win.
McAllen AFT’s campaign for raises was successful, as McAllen ISD met most of the compensation plan proposed. The union won a 2.5% raise for all employees, a one-time $3,000 retention pay bonus for all full-time employees, and a $50 per hour summer school rate for teachers.
Alliance/AFT won a huge victory this past week as the Dallas ISD trustees approved the increase of the district-wide minimum wage to $13.50 per hour. Alliance/AFT plans to continue to bring the fight for their additional demands through June 24, when the trustees vote to approve the budget final for the 2021-2022 school year. The union is encouraging its members to write letters to trustees asking them to approve the full union package.
Houston Federation of Teachers successfully lobbied the Houston ISD school board to approve a $2,500 raise for teachers and staff on the teacher pay scale and a $500 retention bonus for all employees who return to HISD in September.
Although this was a huge win for HFT teachers, support staff were left out of this pay increase. Therefore, the union will continue its fight to win raises for support staff. They are encouraging their members to write letters to trustees asking them to pass a pay raise for teaching assistants, clerks, and hourly support personnel.
Northeast Houston AFT won major victories in two of the school districts they represent, Galena Park ISD and Sheldon ISD. School boards in both ISDs approved a 3% pay raise for teachers and support staff.
Aldine AFT will be advocating for an essential 2% pay increase and an additional $1,500 for teachers and support staff in Aldine ISD at the recommendation of their surveyed members. They are encouraging their members to write letters to Aldine ISD trustees asking them to approve their demands.
TEACH 2021 will will be held virtually this year on July 6-10 and will feature:
- Inspiring speakers on key issues, like rebuilding academically from the pandemic and creating anti-racist communities
- Engaging cross-curricular sessions with meaningful tools and resources to use in your school
- Solutions to ensure students’ social emotional learning and the freedom to thrive
- Opportunities to collaborate with colleagues
Register now! You can also join the TEACH 2021 community on Share My Lesson to review conference content from 2019, find related resources, and join the discussion about what you hope to see at TEACH 2021.
Bridges Institute for Professional Development: upcoming webinars
June 23, 10 a.m.–noon
This session is designed to raise awareness of research that supports differentiation and to teach the basic components of differentiation. The goal of the session is to help teachers reflect on the strengths of their current instructional practices and opportunities for further growth in teaching academically diverse students effectively. Register here.
June 30, 10 a.m.–noon
In this session participants will operationalize the connection between culture and cognition, design strength-focused lessons and activities, and implement research-based pedagogy in classrooms with ethnically diverse students. Register here.