Publish Date: July 6, 2023 5:50 pm Author: Texas AFT
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Friday, June 30, 2023
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The state of our union is strong. The state of our schools is on life support.
This weekend, for the first time since 2019, Texas AFT members convened in person for our statewide convention, passing resolutions, electing officers, and managing the business of our union.
The 31st Biennial Convention, hosted jointly by McAllen AFT, PSJA AFT, Edinburg AFT, and La Joya AFT, arrived on the heels of the 88th Legislature and our #RespectUsExpectUs campaign. While state lawmakers let every Texas public school employee down this session, our union has much to be proud of.
If anything, the legislative disappointments underscored the need to recommit to our fight for a stronger public education system and grow our movement. As was said so many times throughout the weekend, together we thrive.
We get to the bottom of what the Legislature did (and didn’t) do to make our schools safer.
The first special session is dead. Long live the second special session.
The federal government says TEA is now (finally) in compliance with federal special education laws.
A great book-banning debacle has arrived in Katy ISD.
The Supreme Court has struck down affirmative action in college admission decisions.
Unpacking the Legislature: School Safety
As a union, we like to say “educators’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.” While this adage applies to diverse issues such as class size, school funding, and facilities, nowhere is that phrase more relevant than when it comes to school safety.
As gun violence has increased in schools across the United States over the past decades, both students and educators feel the same fear walking into the classroom each day.
In the wake of recent atrocities, the legislature had the opportunity to enact changes that would actually curtail the gun violence epidemic and save lives, changes that were supported by those whose lives were forever changed by school gun violence in Texas.
That opportunity was largely squandered. While there were some significant changes enacted by the legislature that will make our schools more secure, the wider issue of firearm availability in Texas was not addressed.
Legislative Update: Back for Another Property Tax Special Session, Senators Propose a Bonus Check for Teachers
Just as the first special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott was scheduled to run out of time this Wednesday (with legislators passing zero bills), Abbott immediately called a second special session on the very same issue that stalled the previous special session: property tax relief.
Teachers did see one silver lining this week thanks to Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio). In the midst of the property tax debate, Gutierrez proposed an amendment to SJR 1, which provides funding for property tax relief, that would provide Texas teachers with a minimum $2,000 supplemental check each year of the biennium, effectively a two-time bonus. Teachers in smaller school districts with 20,000 students or less would receive a greater $6,000 check each year according to the current plan.
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.
— Book Bans
In Response to Book Ban Bill, Texas School District Halts All Book Purchases
This week, the Katy ISD school board directed the school superintendent to halt the purchase of any new library books and to store any newly purchased books in a warehouse until at least April 2024 in response to a recently passed law by the Texas Legislature.
HB 900 by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), which was recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, is in essence a book-banning bill. Under the bill, private book vendors, not school librarians or elected officials, would assign ratings to these materials. Depending on the book’s rating, it would either be removed from school library shelves or would require parental permission to be accessed.
Patterson, the author of the bill, alleged that the bill was not intended to be a book ban. However, numerous public education advocates including Texas AFT stated that the bill would effectively ban books that focus on Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ experiences, regardless of the intended effect. Body Text
U.S. Department of Education: TEA Finally in Compliance with Special Education Standards after Years of Violation
In a recently released letter from the U.S. Department of Education addressed to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Department stated that TEA has finally fulfilled its obligations to Texas students outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) after years of being found in violation of the law.
Initially found to be in violation after a 2017 site visit, TEA has failed numerous federal audits since. On numerous occasions over those years, the Department of Education outlined specific steps that TEA must take to fix their violations, and on numerous occasions TEA failed to take sufficient corrective action.
Supreme Court Targets Efforts to Promote Diversity on College Campuses
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision that found certain practices promoting a diverse student body on college campuses are unconstitutional. The majority decisions issued by the court’s six conservative justices in the cases Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. UNC found that race-conscious university admissions practices violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
For decades, race-conscious admissions practices, also commonly referred to as “affirmative action,” have increased diversity at universities by prioritizing the admissions of applicants in historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups who continue to be underrepresented at colleges and universities. Racial and ethnic identity is not the sole criteria in any admissions system, but universities were previously allowed to consider race within the context of a student’s broader identity, qualifications, and experience.
If your summer plans include some cleaning or organizing, you can do the same for your digital life too. LifeBrand, a new tool provided for free to AFT members, scans your social media profiles to find potentially harmful posts and then guides you to edit or delete those posts!
As AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick C. Ingram notes, “In the course of 15 years, I know I’ve changed, and so has my social media presence. It was a great opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane. While I found some things that gave me pause, in the end, I believe my social media history reflects both who I was then and who I am today. It was good to know that if I found something that others might use for negative purposes that I could delete it with one keystroke.”
After surviving a long school year, reward yourself by doing something that’s good for you and your financial well-being — like making sure your insurance and retirement plans are still on track.
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Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time
📖 How a false allegation changed a former Cy-Fair coach’s life forever. The coach was driving home when the calls and texts started coming, at first a trickle and then a monsoon.He ignored them, focusing on the highway. But the torrent of dings and buzzes became impossible to ignore. He wondered: What could be happening? It was there, on U.S. 59 that the man learned his life had jolted, drastically, in a horrible and unforeseeable new direction. (Houston Chronicle, June 26)
📖Dallas Teachers Grade ‘Mind-Boggling’ Legislative Session: ‘A Solid F’. At the start of the 2023 legislative session, Texas politicians promised teachers plenty. Well, roughly three weeks have passed since the end of the regular session, meaning that teachers have had some time to reflect on lawmakers’ performance this year. The report card is just about as bad as you might think. (Dallas Observer, June 22)
📖SAISD should let people vote on school closures, say teachers union, other groups.A coalition of community groups representing teachers, parents, students, employees, and residents of San Antonio ISD said they want any proposals to close or consolidate schools decided by people in the district. The Schools Our Students Deserve Coalition also voiced concern that the historic inner-city district is moving too quickly on a building-use study that could lead to closures in the 2024-2025 school year. (San Antonio Express-News, June 23)
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