June 23, 2023: Together We Thrive

This week’s Hotline is brought to you by Horace Mann. 

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

Friday, June 23, 2023

One Judson AFT member pictured at Thursday’s school board meeting.

One Judson AFT member pictured at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Together We Thrive

It simply isn’t enough for Texas public schools to survive (which many of them are struggling to do at all, especially in rural communities). Our students deserve schools that help them thrive — and that means schools that ensure their employees can thrive too.

That’s the theme of the 31st Biennial Texas AFT Convention this weekend in McAllen, and it’s one of the guiding principles of our union’s work over the next year. 

The idea of “thriving” may seem aspirational to many who just ended another brutal year in Texas’ underfunded public schools. But it’s not out of reach — not if we work together. 

We’ve seen it in just the past week. Without any new funding from the Legislature, many districts are in a budgetary squeeze. But that hasn’t stopped our members across the state from showing up and advocating for what’s right: badly needed pay raises for teachers and staff struggling to get by and to stay in the profession. 

Southwest Dallas AFT fought for weeks and this week, won raises for employees in Cedar Hill ISD and Duncanville ISD. Socorro AFT’s long advocacy campaign ended Wednesday with a 4% raise for all Socorro ISD employees and a $20 minimum wage for bus drivers. And just yesterday, Judson AFT members showed up in numbers to their school board meeting and walked away with an additional pay increase on top of planned raises and more stipends for employees in various roles. 

We deserve to thrive. So do our students. The question for us all: How do we grow our numbers and our strength to make that future a reality?

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Our deep dive into public school funding — and why the Legislature refused to put any new money into our schools
  • Updates from the ongoing special session drama
  • Our recap of this week’s State Board of Education meeting
  • A preview of our union’s biennial convention this weekend in McAllen

— Legislature

Texas A-F-T local presidents hold up signs demanding
Unpacking the Legislature: Public School Funding

This week, we’ll provide some insight into the Texas school finance system, explore why the Texas Legislature did not use the historic $33 billion surplus to bring Texas public education up from 39th in the nation for per-student funding, and explain what’s next in our fight for respect and for fully funding our classrooms.

$33 billion. For context, that’s larger than the entire budgets of 24 states. Of this amount, budget writers started this session stating an intention to appropriate approximately $5 billion to be used for:


  • increasing funding for public schools by updating allotments in the school finance system to account for the inflation since they were last updated

  • providing educators and school employees with raises.

So what happened?

— Legislature

Legislative Update: Gov. Abbott Has a Veto Tantrum, Senate Sets Paxton Impeachment Trial Rules

Seeking Leverage on Vouchers & Property Tax Relief, Gov. Abbott Has a Veto Tantrum 

Sunday was the last day for Gov. Greg Abbott to exercise his veto authority, stopping any bills passed during the regular session from becoming law. In an attempt to punish certain legislators who did not vote for private school vouchers or his preferred property tax relief plan, Abbott vetoed 76 bills passed by the Legislature, a record high during his tenure in office.

After a bill is passed by the Legislature, the governor has until the 20th day after the Legislature adjourns to sign or veto a bill. If the governor does not sign or veto a bill, then the bill becomes law without his signature. 

Typically, a short statement from the governor about why he believes the bill should be vetoed is included in a bill’s veto proclamation. Instead, the veto proclamations for many bills that were vetoed this session included the sentences, “At this time, the Legislature must concentrate on delivering property tax cuts to Texans,” or “This bill can be reconsidered at a future special session only after education freedom is passed,” despite the fact that many of the bills he vetoed had nothing to do with property taxes or education.

Senate Sets Paxton Impeachment Trial Rules

While the Texas Senate remains locked in a special session stalemate with the governor and House over their dueling property tax relief plans, senators have also begun to set rules for the impeachment trial for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. 

After the House approved 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton during the final days of the regular session, Paxton was temporarily removed from office and will now stand trial before the Texas Senate. If the Senate votes to convict Paxton, he will be permanently removed from office. If the Senate votes to acquit Paxton, he will be reinstated as attorney general. A two-thirds vote is required to convict Paxton.

The 29 pages of trial rules adopted by the Senate by a 25-3 vote lay out a process that is similar to standard courtroom procedure.

Sen. Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton’s wife, will sit on his jury, but the rules prohibit her from voting on any issues and from participating in any deliberations on whether he should be convicted or acquitted. 

The trial rules state that Paxton’s trial must begin on or before Sept. 5.

Baseball cap with the Texas A-F-T logo done as a Pride flag.

Show Your Pride. Fund Our Fight. 

We stand with all LGBTQ+ educators, students, and Texans. This month, show your solidarity publicly and pick up a Texas AFT Pride hat at store.texasaft.org! Every purchase made through our online store serves as a donation to Texas AFT COPE, our union’s political fund.

31st Biennial Texas AFT Convention Starts Today

Image reads: 31st biennial texas A-F-T Convention.

This weekend, Texas AFT hosts our union’s 31st Biennial Convention in McAllen. Many thanks to our host committee in the Rio Grande Valley: McAllen AFT, Edinburg AFT, La Joya AFT, and PSJA AFT. 

The convention is our place, every two years, to take care of the business of our union and reflect on our achievements. This year, convention will include:  

  • A celebration of historic milestones, including 50-year anniversaries for Education Austin and the Houston Federation of Teachers and a 40-year anniversary for AFT Lone Star College 
  • Awards and recognition for local unions growing in their communities, organizing committees winning in their districts, elected officials standing by public education, and, this year, one very special student
  • Elections for Texas AFT officers and votes on resolutions and constitutional amendments to guide our union’s work
  • Keynote speeches from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo, AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus, and others

For the first time, we are bringing some of the convention straight to you at home via social media. You can watch speeches from earlier today on the Texas AFT Facebook page.

Not on Facebook? No worries. We’ll be providing live updates on our Twitter and Instagram accounts too. And next Friday (June 30), we’ll have a full recap of the convention here in the Hotline. 

On Tap Tomorrow

Headshot of Patty Quinzi with Texas A-F-T Convention branding.

Saturday, June 24

9 a.m. CT

Patty Quinzi, director of Texas AFT’s Public Affairs team, will provide an update after the 88th Legislature. 

Watch Live on Facebook

A-F-T logo

AFT Member Benefits: Theme Parks & Attractions

As you’re making summer plans for yourself or with your family, keep in mind that as a union member, you can get major discounts on theme parks and tourist attractions nationwide. 

All AFT members have access to Union Plus benefits, which include discounts at parks like Walt Disney World and Six Flags, as well as other destinations like the Guggenheim Museum and the Kennedy Space Center.

You can find participating hotels and more about all of your membership benefits online through AFT’s website.

SBOE Recap: Charter Reviews & an Instructional Materials Avalanche

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met in Austin this week to discuss its regular agenda. In many respects, the June meeting is the most consequential of any given year because the SBOE determines the fate of new charter school applications.  

Commissioner Mike Morath delivered comments on the five charter applications that he put forward for approval. (He also provided an update on the Houston ISD takeover regarding the process for the selection of the board of managers. When pressed by the board, he was noncommittal on whether specific resources would reach the campuses most in need.) 

Five applicants made it through the charter application process to the Wednesday public hearing: 

  • Celebrate Dyslexia School
  • Heritage Classical Academy
  • NextGen Innovation Academy
  • Up Excellence Academy
  • Village Speech and Debate Academy 

At the end of the public hearing Wednesday, two applicants, Celebrate Dyslexia School and Heritage Classical Academy, received an initial vote recommending approval before the final vote Friday. On Wednesday, it was recommended that NextGen Innovation Academy, Up Excellence Academy, and Village Speech and Debate Academy all be vetoed by the board. At the final vote Friday, the board reversed its initial decision on both Next Gen Innovation Academy and Up Excellence Academy. These along with Celebrate Dyslexia and Heritage Classical were approved and will plan to open in the 2024-2025 school year. 

The board also conducted a work session on HB 1605, the omnibus instructional materials bill from the 88th regular legislative session. This bill made significant changes to the instructional materials review and approval process and imposed some requirements of the board. We’ve written previously about our objections to the provisions of this bill.

— Sponsor Message

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Recommended Reading

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

📖 Opinion: AISD is stepping up to invest in our students. So should the state. After a legislative session failed to increase the baseline funding for Texas public schools despite a record financial surplus, Austin ISD is digging deep to ensure the success of our students and the people who support them. But the district’s proposed budget carries a steep cost, requiring us to reach into our reserves to spend millions more this year than we expect to receive under state funding formulas. (Austin American-Statesman, June 21) 


📖 Texas teacher arrested at HISD’s heated board of managers meeting charged with trespassing. A teacher who was arrested at last week’s meeting of the Houston ISD board of managers has been charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing. Jeremy Eugene, 30, was registered to speak at Thursday’s meeting but was shut out of the auditorium, where the capacity had been limited to 35 people. When Eugene peacefully attempted to reenter the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, he was arrested without incident, witnesses said. (Houston Chronicle, June 20) 

📖 State Rep. Julie Johnson launches campaign to replace Colin Allred in Congress. State Rep. Julie Johnson on Tuesday officially launched her campaign to replace Colin Allred in Congress, joining a crowded field in what’s expected to be one of North Texas’ marquee contests. Tuesday’s official announcement came with a list of backers, including the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. (Dallas Morning News, June 20)