June 9, 2023: ‘Starving us to death’

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2023

A protestor holds up a megaphone and a sign that reads

Rio Grande Valley community members, including McAllen AFT, protest outside an April stop on Gov. Abbott’s voucher roadshow. Photo by Clarissa Riojas.

‘If you don’t have a school, you don’t have a community’

Today, we start our summer project of unpacking the 88th Legislature, a “lost session” for public education in most respects. There is simply no other way to describe a session — with a $33 billion surplus — that ends without a single cent going to increase the basic allotment of state funding for our schools. 

A jaw-dropping article in Texas Monthly goes into great detail about the impact on public school districts, particularly those in small, rural communities. 

One important fact from that article to remember: The state share of funding to ISDs has fallen from 44% in 2011 to 31% in 2022. Increasingly, the state is offloading that cost to homeowners, renters, and business owners, unbeknownst to them. 

 “You’re paying more and more in property taxes every year, but your schools aren’t getting any better,” Every Texan’s Chandra Villanueva told Texas Monthly. “Your schools are still threatening to close. They can’t hire enough teachers. They’re in financial distress all the time. So almost by design, it creates distrust for both the school system and property taxes.” 

It’s funny then that the first hastily called special session of this Legislature is not on school funding or school employee pay raises, but on cutting — or as Gov. Greg Abbott has teased, “eliminating” — property taxes.

What exactly is left for our schools? 

In January, as the governor was just gearing up for his barnstorming voucher tour of private schools, Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson summed up the situation simply. No one’s done it better since: “They are starving us to death.”

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Our deep dive into school employee raises — and why the Legislature held them hostage

  • Updates from the first of “several” legislative special sessions

  • The first week of TEA’s takeover of Houston ISD saw little trust being built within the community

  • If you’re thinking of resigning, know your rights on contract abandonment

— Legislature

Brownsville A-F-T members sit inside the Capitol. Propped by a table is a sign that reads,

Brownsville Educators Stand Together (BEST AFT) members at Texas AFT’s Public Education Advocacy Day on March 13. Photo by Win O’Neal, CCR Studios. 

Unpacking the 88th Legislature: School Employee Raises 

The legislative session began with a $32.7 billion budget surplus, record-breaking staff turnover, and a TEA Teacher Vacancy Task Force report that directly pointed to educator raises as a necessary strategy to keep educators in the classroom. Yet the legislative session ended last month with $0 in guaranteed raises for educators. Despite all this money on the table and the clearly demonstrated need, educators got nothing this legislative session. 

Not only did legislators ignore the findings of the state’s own task force, they also ignored you. Over the 140-day legislative session, hundreds of educators made the journey to Austin from across the state. With a united voice, these hundreds of educators had a message for legislators: “put some respect in my paycheck.” Yet this simple and incredibly reasonable request seemed to go unheard.

In this week’s edition of “Unpacking the Legislature” we explain how this happened, what legislators are saying now, and what to expect next.

— Know Your Rights

At some point, circumstances may lead you to decide that you need to resign. Here’s what you need to know so you won’t suffer the consequences of “abandoning your contract.” Read our Know Your Rights guide online.

— Legislature

News from the 88th legislative session
Special Session Update: Senate Treads Water After House Adjourns

Last week, the day after the regular session of the Texas Legislature ended, Gov. Greg Abbott promptly called legislators back for a special session to deal with property tax cuts and border security. The Texas House promptly passed a property tax cut bill and a border security bill, and adjourned that same day. The Senate, however, has refused to accept the House’s property tax proposal. 

The governor’s call for a special session on property taxes specified that he wanted a bill to provide property tax relief “solely” through rate compression. While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supports rate compression, he has been adamant about his desire to also increase the flat-dollar homestead exemption, which reduces a home’s taxable value. In last week’s Hotline, we went deeper into what those opposing plans actually mean to Texas homeowners and to Texas public schools.

While the special session is effectively over for the Texas House, the Texas Senate has remained in session. While the House and Senate sit at a stalemate over their opposing property tax plans, the Senate has spent this time passing bills that aren’t on the governor’s call. Somewhat unsurprisingly, these bills do nothing to support public education, and some are actively harmful to public education.

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.

— Texas Education Agency

Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson speaks at a community protest Thursday. Alliance/AFT member and Dallas ISD teacher Rosie Curts traveled to the Thursday protest in solidarity against TEA’s takeover of Houston ISD and Mike Miles’ appointment as superintendent.

First Week of TEA’s Takeover of Houston ISD, in Review

On Thursday, June 8, the Texas Education Agency’s hand-picked board of managers, which replaces Houston ISD’s democratically elected school board, met for the first time. 

Before the meeting, members of the board of managers pledged to “earn the trust” of the HISD community. 

The meeting itself proved how large of a deficit of trust they are working from.

Chants of “No justice, no peace!” and “TEA, go away!” punctuated passionate testimony from Houston ISD students, parents, educators, and community members. At least 150 showed up to a planned community protest before heading into the meeting. 


The Houston Federation of Teachers has repeatedly decried the disturbing lack of transparency TEA has displayed throughout the takeover process. Several of the members of the new board of managers, many of whom hail from affluent areas, seemed preordained; in one case, TEA appointed a manager, Janette Garza Lindner, who was rejected by voters in the 2021 school board election. 


In their first board meeting, amid the clamor of an outraged community, the nine managers were able to rubber-stamp the appointment of Mike Miles as superintendent, despite Miles himself arriving late to the meeting.

A-F-T logo

AFT Member Benefits:
Hotel Discounts

You have endured another challenging school year and a bruising legislative session in which you advocated fiercely. If you are able (and not working summer school or yet another job), we hope you are taking an opportunity to recharge over the summer. 

If you do have vacation plans, remember your AFT membership benefits. All AFT members are eligible for significant discounts at Wyndham and Hilton Hotels. 

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

— Sponsor Message

Horace Mann logo
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School’s out! You deserve a summer of self-care.

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.

Long-time corporate supporter, Horace Mann, provides solutions to help address the challenges you face every day — in and out of the classroom. Horace Mann offers auto, home, life and supplemental insurance, as well as retirement solutions. They also offer programs to help you find more money in your budget and ongoing support to help you grow and protect assets with confidence.

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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.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Rural school districts are facing financial ruin. Some state officials prefer it that way. For years, the state has starved public schools of funding: Texas ranks forty-second in per-pupil spending. And yet Governor Greg Abbott is spending enormous political capital on promoting a school voucher plan, which would divert taxpayer funds to private schools. Public education, Abbott has repeatedly said, will remain “fully funded,” though the Legislature recently passed a $321.3 billion budget with no pay raise for teachers and very little new funding for schools. (Texas Monthly, June 6) 

📖 Editorial: STAAR test fails Texas students and needs to go — but not as part of school vouchers. Gov. Greg Abbott is absolutely right to propose eliminating STAAR, the Texas standardized public school exam that excels in creating anxiety among students and teachers while quashing joy in learning. But he is absolutely wrong in wrapping this idea in his push for vouchers, which would undercut public education and school finance. (San Antonio Express-News, June 6) 

📖 Gov. Greg Abbott’s property tax cut plan raises alarm from Texas school districts and advocates. Although the Republican-pushed property tax cuts under consideration in the Legislature backfill the revenue they’re taking from local school districts, education policy experts around Texas are concerned about what they mean for the long term finances of schools. (Houston Chronicle, June 7)