June 5, 2022: Protest targets Ted Cruz for abominable response to the Uvalde shooting; Abbott ignores calls for special session, announces new directives; TRS trustee election news

Zeph Capo stands on the steps of the federal building downtown Austin and speaks to a crowd of marchers with signs and reporters with cameras

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo rallies a call to stop gun violence on the steps of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s office building.

Texas AFT Protest targets Sen. Cruz for being an obstacle to popular gun-safety measures and a proponent of arming more teachers


Abbott announces new steps for school safety that ignore gun legislation

A crowd of teachers and union leaders marched to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s office in downtown Austin Tuesday to deliver a message: We need to start now with legislation that will make it harder for shooters to arm themselves and attack our children.


Texas AFT President Zeph Capo led the march to the state Capitol, where protestors observed a moment of silence, and Capo laid flowers on a memorial to the 19 students and two teachers killed at the Uvalde elementary school. “What we saw last session at the Texas Capitol was that they actually made this easier to happen,” Capo told marchers.


Capo, accompanied by two children with signs that read “What about my right to life?” and “AR Access = more dead people,” then delivered a letter signed by teachers urging federal legislation to address gun violence. The American Federation of Teachers has been fighting for measures outlined in its joint report with EveryTown, including expanding background checks to all gun sales, implementing extreme risk legislation (red flag laws), increasing the age to 21 to purchase both handguns and rifles, beefing up secure-storage laws, funding threat assessment and security programs, and increasing funding for counselors and mental health services. “When someone can walk into a gun store on their eighteenth birthday and legally buy an assault rifle, something is clearly wrong in Texas,” Capo said.

Texas AFT targeted Cruz because he has actively promoted arming teachers instead of looking for common ground on commonsense legislation. Texas law already has provisions for armed school staff—the marshal and guardian programs—but Texas AFT is firmly against expanding these programs because research has shown they are dangerous and ineffective.

Cruz’s other talking point has been a call for single-entry and single-exit schools. Campuses across Texas already have implemented single-entry doors—with various security measures—although there are obvious safety concerns about a single exit.

Protestor holds sign with caricature of Ted Cruz saying,

Newest reporting out of Uvalde notes the door accessed by the shooter was supposed to lock automatically when it closed but failed to do so.


Gov. Abbott ignores calls for special session on gun legislation and instead announces security spot checks, special legislative committees


Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent response to the shooting has been to ignore widespread calls for gun legislation and a special session to address gun violence. Instead, Abbott directed the House speaker and lieutenant governor in the Senate to form special committees to look at issues around mental health, social media, police training, and firearm safety. Additionally, he directed the Texas School Safety Center to do unannounced audits of campuses to check their security. (State law currently requires regular audits at least once in a three-year period.)


Today, House Speaker Dade Phelan responded by forming an Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting. “The fact we still do not have an accurate picture of what exactly happened in Uvalde is an outrage,” Phelan said in a news release. “Every day, we receive new information that conflicts with previous reports, making it not only difficult for authorities to figure out next steps, but for the grieving families of the victims to receive closure.” Phelan also expanded interim charges of two House committees to address the governor’s directive.


On the Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced on Wednesday the formation of a special committee as directed by the governor. Patrick appointed eight Republicans and three Democrats to the committee, and he notably left Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, off the committee. Sen. Guitierrez has publicly called for Gov. Abbott to convene a special session in order to pass meaningful legislation to address gun violence. Patrick requested that the committee hold a hearing on June 23 or a date shortly after.


While these are worthwhile pieces addressing school safety, they are missing what a majority of Texans and Americans are supporting and demanding—sensible laws to put limitations on access to dangerous guns.


How can you take action?

TRS is offering no-cost benefits and other counseling, healthcare services for Uvalde and surrounding districts

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas is offering additional benefits to employees of Uvalde CISD and other area districts. Through June 30, TRS-ActiveCare will provide members in Uvalde ISD temporary waivers from paying copays and deductibles. No-cost services include:

  • Outpatient mental/behavioral health services and in-office services;
  • Telehealth services for mental/behavioral health;
  • Access early refills for prescription drugs; and
  • Should any participants require care for treatment of injuries resulting from the event, TRS will cover any out-of-pocket costs for medical treatment of such injuries.

For districts surrounding Uvalde CISD, TRS-Active Care also will offer expanded waivers for copays and deductibles for limited services. Additionally, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and Teledoc are offering some mental tele-health/counseling services for free for those district employees who are not TRS Active-Care members. For assistance with these services, call 1-866-355-5999 to speak to a BCBSTX Personal Health Guide who can assist you 24/7.

TRS starts nomination process for trustee election; Texas AFT members are strongly encouraged to apply


TRS is now accepting nominations for the election of two positions on the TRS Board of Trustees. One of these positions is designated for retirees currently receiving TRS benefits. The other position is an at-large position designated either for retirees currently receiving TRS benefits or a current member of the system who is either inactive or currently contributing to TRS and whose most recent service credit was received from either a public school district, an institution of higher education, a charter school, or a regional education service center.


Interested candidates must collect at least 250 signatures from eligible members via online or paper petition no later than January 25, 2023. Voting will occur between March 15 and May 5, 2023. The governor will choose between the top three candidates for both positions who received the most votes, and the governor’s selected candidates for both positions will take office in September of 2023 for a term that will last until August 31, 2029. 

We strongly encourage Texas AFT members who are active contributing, inactive, or retired TRS members to apply. If you are interested in applying, please send an email to emelendrez@texasaft.org.

Help us fight for the schools we deserve. Sign up for our summer ‘Win Respect Fellowship’

Texas school employees are at a breaking point: hundreds of vacancies in every school district, 66% of school employees considering leaving the profession, and the pipeline of new educators drying up as a generation opts out of teaching.


Now, we are also reeling from another tragic school shooting in Uvalde. Many educators fear for the safety of themselves and their students. 


Enough is enough. Our public school employees deserve the respect of our leaders and all that it entails: safe working conditions, reasonable workloads and expectations, and pay that represents not only a living wage, but a thriving wage.  


Texas AFT’s “Win Respect” Fellowship will bring together AFT members from across the state who are serious about transforming our working conditions, winning a statewide salary increase, and more. Starting June 14, we will meet on Zoom every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central Time for five weeks to train up AND start moving our Respect Agenda statewide.

The Win Respect Fellowship is open to all AFT members in Texas. Sign up now! Because we don’t need a task force. We need a movement.