March 1, 2024: Vote Vote Vote

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

Friday, March 1, 2024

Collage of voting merchandise items.

Fund our fight for a thriving public education system at the ballot box this year. Shop new voting merch at Every purchase is a donation to our Texas AFT COPE political fund.  

Educators don’t vote? Prove them wrong Tuesday.

With Election Day coming this Tuesday, and Texas voter turnout sitting under 10% statewide, we want to direct your attention to a timely and important message from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo. We encourage you to read the full letter on our website before you dive into this week’s newsletter. But as a teaser, we’ll leave you with this tidbit:  

“Early voting is underway in a primary election that has been flooded with millions of out-of-state dollars and misinformation about our schools peddled by Gov. Greg Abbott and his voucher donors. Friends, billionaires and their paid grifters are trying to buy our state. If we don’t vote, we are putting out a For Sale sign on our communities. 

In this week’s Hotline:  

  • Our annual membership survey is making headlines, and for good reason: two-thirds of our members say they are ready to call it quits on the profession.  
  • Texas narrowly escapes an F grade from the Network for Public Education in its latest report.  
  • Wildfires are devastating the Texas Panhandle, and we want to be ready to help educators and their families. Can you donate to our Disaster Relief Fund? 
  • Get updates on the CROWN Act dispute in Barbers Hill ISD, indicted Attorney General Paxton’s crusade against Denton ISD, and a temporary reprieve from the cruelty of immigration law SB 4.  

— Disaster Relief

Image reads: make a donation today.

Donate Today to Texas AFT’s Disaster Relief Fund 

As of Thursday, multiple wildfires in the Texas Panhandle have merged, forming the largest blaze in our state’s history. The Dallas Morning News reports that 1 million acres have been burned so far, and one person, a former substitute teacher, has been killed. Texas AFT is reaching out to members in the area to ensure their safety and assess any needs. Our union’s Disaster Relief Fund stands ready to help, but we rely on the generous donations of our members and their families to keep the fund healthy. Please consider a small donation today; all proceeds go directly to affected members and educators — of this disaster and future ones. 

— Annual Survey

Image reads: most texas teachers burnt out, considering quitting, survey shows.

Texas AFT Membership Survey Results a “Disaster Declaration” for Public Education 

As Texans vote in party primaries where public education and private school vouchers are front and center, Texas AFT has now released the results of our latest annual membership survey. The results — what you, our members, told us — are making headlines across the state 

Following chronic underfunding and Gov. Greg Abbott’s political tantrums, Texas schools are facing a teacher retention crisis, an educator shortage, and major layoffs across the state. According to Texas Academic Performance Reports from the Texas Education Agency, the turnover rate for teachers in the 2022-2023 school year was 21.4%, an 81% increase from the 2009-2010 school year. All these challenges come at a time when Texas has an unprecedented budget surplus. 

“The teacher retention crisis is here, and Texas educators are ringing the fire alarm. They’ve heard a lot of promises from politicians, but they have seen little action,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “We should consider the results of this survey to be the public education disaster declaration that Gov. Abbott doesn’t care enough to make.” 

— Event

Educating Texas: Elections Have Consequences

Tuesday, March 5 

6 p.m. CT 

Texas has the eighth-largest economy in the world and a $32.7 billion budget surplus, but our schools are starved for resources. How did this happen? What can we do to fix it? Can it be fixed? 

Head back to school with Texas AFT for a brush-up on your civics education. In this bimonthly Zoom series, we’re walking through who holds the power in this state, what they’re doing with it, and what we need to build thriving public schools — and a thriving Lone Star State democracy. 

Our next session is Tuesday, March 5, Election Day for Texas primary elections, and we’ll be celebrating with activities, prizes, and some learning opportunities too. Sign up for this and all other sessions on our Mobilize page. 

Missed our previous sessions? Watch the recordings on our YouTube page. 

— Privatization

Picture of the Texas capitol with a drawn letter D over.

Texas Earns a ‘D’ Grade in New Public Schools Report, Barely Escaping Failure 

This week, the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening public schools across the country, published a report grading each state’s commitment to public education. This report, Public Schooling in America: Measuring Each State’s Commitment to Democratically Governed Schools, is the latest in a series assessing each state’s public schools.  


This year, Texas received a D-rating, just barely escaping the lowest grade by a few points. Texas earned a score of 58 out of 100, making it the lowest-scoring state to avoid an F-rating (55 points or less). Based on its overall score of 58, Texas ranks 34th out of 50 states. 

— Event

Poor People’s State House Assembly 

TOMORROW – Saturday, March 2 

11 a.m.-2 p.m. 

Texas Capitol 

Tomorrow, March 2, just before a critical Election Day the following Tuesday, the Texas Poor People’s Campaign is organizing  a People’s Assembly in Austin at the Capitol on March 2, 2024 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This People’s Assembly will bring Texas residents from across Texas to stand in solidarity on voter rights, health care, immigration, livable wages, and education. 

It is important that all Texans, but especially public educators, show up to support one another at this event, of which Texas AFT is a proud sponsor. As the state attacks vital resources for vulnerable communities, including the right to education, it is critical that all Texans join arms in opposition to this hateful agenda that leaves our neighbors, our communities, and our kids behind. 

The Texas assembly is a part of a coordinated national effort. The Poor People’s Campaign will be hosting similar events at 31 state capitols across the U.S., as well as at the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. Sign up here to take part in this event. 

— Immigration

Federal Judge Blocks Extreme Anti-Immigrant Law, Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) 

In a significant victory for immigrant rights advocates, a federal court in Texas has issued a preliminary injunction blocking Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), “one of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws ever passed by any state legislature in the country” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas. This controversial law, championed by Gov. Greg Abbott, would have empowered state and local law enforcement to arrest and deport individuals suspected of illegal border crossings. It was slated to take effect on March 5. 


In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David Ezra, while acknowledging the risks posed by cartels and drug trafficking along the border, forcefully rejected Texas’ claim that high migrant arrival numbers constitute an invasion under Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. He stated, “I haven’t seen, and the state of Texas can’t point me to any type of military invasion in Texas. I don’t see evidence that Texas is at war.” 

— Discrimination

Texas Judge Rules Barbers Hill ISD Didn’t Violate CROWN Act, Can Suspend Student for Hair Length 

Since Aug. 31, 2023, Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School, has been suspended for wearing his hair in locs. Despite the passage of a Texas version of the CROWN Act, which went into effect in September, Barbers Hill ISD has argued that the length of Darryl’s locs, not the specific style, allowed it to punish him for violating the school’s dress code without the district violating the CROWN Act. 


State District Judge Chap Cain III ruled in favor of the school district, saying its policy is “not discriminatory because the CROWN Act does not say that exemptions for long hair can be made for hairstyles that are protected by the law, including locs.” He argued that by siding in favor of Darryl and his family, he would be legislating from the bench and that it went against his constitutional duty to do so. 

— Elections

Indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton Sues Denton ISD Over Alleged Electioneering 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against Denton ISD, alleging two administrators violated the Texas Election Code.

Paxton has accused Denton ISD administrators of using public resources to influence the Texas Republican primary election, insisting that purported electioneering by school officials is illegal, richly emphasizing his commitment to stopping the “misuse of taxpayer resources” for political influence. 


In an email Paxton presented as evidence of misbehavior, school administrators urged their staff to vote in the Texas Republican primary, supporting candidates aligned with public education. Both administrators’ emails informed staff of allocated time for voting provided by the district during their workdays, emphasizing the significance of the primary in shaping decisions that will affect Denton ISD families. Labeling it a criminal offense, Paxton argues that schools can’t use publicly funded resources for political advertising. 

— Event

Event image.

AFT Book Club: A Conversation with Ruth Ben-Ghiat 

Sunday, March 10 

5 p.m. CT 


Join us for our March AFT Book Club session featuring AFT President Randi Weingarten and renowned author Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who will discuss her book Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present. Engage with Weingarten and Ben-Ghiat as they explore the themes of power, personality, and politics that define the era of strongmen and authoritarian leaders throughout history. You’ll gain insights into the past and present, to better understand how history can inform our future. This is a must-attend event for anyone interested in history, politics, and the lessons we can learn from the past. 

Educators can receive one hour of professional development recertification credit for participating in this webinar if they complete all the poll questions, survey, and actively watch the webinar. 

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Commentary: State leaders get a failing grade when it comes to supporting Texas children. During the past year of fruitless legislative bullying, we have been told repeatedly by Gov. Greg Abbott that Texas must implement a voucher program so that economically disadvantaged children can get the education and support they need. As Northside AFT President Melina Espiritu-Azocar and Texas AFT Secretary-Treasurer Wanda Longoria write, those words ring hollow in Texas. (San Antonio Express-News, Feb. 28) 


📖 Commentary: Why does recess matter? Parents and community supporters celebrated after several years of advocating for a written daily recess policy for all elementary level students in the Brownsville Independent School District. The new policy will not take effect until the 2024-25 school year and is humble in scope, with only 15 minutes of unstructured play required for students in the 3-year-old program through fifth grade. But it is a step in the right direction. (, Feb. 22)


 📖 UH education professor suspends course in protest of HISD’s rigid lessons. A University of Houston education professor stopped teaching his course last week in protest of his student teachers’ placements in Houston ISD schools, where he said the “scripted curriculum” used in HISD classes made it impossible for them to complete their assignments. (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 23)