March 25, 2022: Charters take billions in fed business aid; Changeup in Texas Senate Ed; Get ready to vote again!
Publish Date: March 25, 2022 11:19 am Author: Texas AFT
Senate Education Committee gets new chair
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has appointed Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) to chair the Education Committee during the interim and will keep him as chair of the Higher Education Committee.
However, Patrick intends to make the Higher Education Committee a subcommittee of the Education Committee in the next legislative session, which starts in January 2023.
Creighton replaces Sen. Larry Taylor, who is retiring. Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) was chosen to replace Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), who is also retiring, as vice chair of the Education Committee. With several retiring state senators, Patrick also appointed several other committee chairs.
Make sure you’re registered to vote leading up to May 7 elections
Many communities across Texas will hold local elections—including for school boards—on May 7. But all registered Texans will have a choice to vote on two proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that adjust property tax homestead exemptions.
Many Houston and Harris County residents will also get to vote on the vacant House District 147 seat, which was held by Rep. Garnet Coleman, who retired. Democrats Danielle Keys Bess and Jolanda Jones are running for the spot. Both also are headed to a May 24 runoff to decide who gets to run for the Democrats in the November General Election.
Thursday, April 7, is the last day to register to vote for the May 7 elections. Early voting runs from Monday, April 25, to Tuesday, May 3.
Charters taking federal pandemic business loans should pay back the money
Texas AFT identified the practice as a sham when we first noted that charter schools were eligible for federal assistance loans meant to keep businesses running in the pandemic. Here was another instance of charters claiming they are public when it works their way, and then claiming they are private businesses when it works in their favor.
At question are more than $1 billion in Paycheck Protection Program Loans—that in many cases, do not have to be paid back to the federal government—handed out to charter operators. A USA Today investigation found that the vast majority of these loans went to charters that were not losing any state funding in the pandemic. The newspaper’s list of unethical actions by charters is long, but here are some examples:
“KIPP, one of the largest charter chains in the country, saw its bottom line swell by $27 million in fiscal 2020. However, 14 of its affiliate organizations across the country had $28.4 million in PPP loans forgiven. KIPP said its affiliates had additional financial needs.
“Some charter schools used the money to increase savings accounts or, in one case, hand millions of dollars to an investor.
“One California charter chain obtained $32.7 million in PPP loans by using 12 separate nonprofit companies that are linked to different schools to get the money. All of the loans were sent to the same address in Lancaster. The chain, Learn4Life, denied any wrongdoing.”
Most of these charters also received federal pandemic aid directed to public schools. The Network for Public Education is urging advocates to send an online letter to their U.S. senators and President Joe Biden demanding that charters pay back this money.
AFT supports Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for SCOTUS
On Monday, AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing the support of Ketanji Browns Jackson’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson—a D.C. Court of Appeals Circuit judge—is a public school graduate and a daughter to public school teachers from Florida. Additionally, her judicial knowledge and understanding of the law as it impacts working-class families has earned her praise from Weingarten as “an unwavering voice for justice and fairness.”
Jackson would be the first African-American woman to serve on the court in its history. She was nominated by President Joe Biden due to Justice Stephen Breyer retiring after 28 years of service.
In two days of intense questioning by Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jackson demonstrated incredible resolve and patience in the face of reactionary, culture-war arguments by GOP senators trying to elicit legal opinions throughout the confirmation hearings. Democrats are expected to be united in their support for Jackson’s confirmation to the court, with the possibility for a small few members of the Republican caucus to support her nomination. Utah Senator Mitt Romney, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Maine Senator Susan Collins have yet to reach a decision.
Weingarten stressed that the role of the Supreme Court impacts the daily life of every American, every day. “As educators, we defend democracy every day—in our classrooms, in our communities and beyond,” Weingarten wrote. “Progress does not always move quickly, but with this nomination, we take an important step forward in building a court that looks more like America and serves us all.”
Texas AFT reaffirms the sentiments of support for the historic nomination of Jackson to the Supreme Court and urges the Senate to advance towards confirmation.
Ready to step it up and hone your leadership skills?
Are you ready to take a more active role in your union and make a difference for your schools and profession?
Attend one of our Regional Leadership Conferences sponsored by Texas AFT’s Bridges Institute. The Bridges Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to providing professional learning opportunities for Texas public school employees. After three successful conferences, we still have one more scheduled for Houston on April 2.
Courses will be offered for members to help them build union power at their worksite. The sessions focus on strategies and tips for organizing—foundational pieces for moving potential members to members, members to activists, and activists to leaders. See the full course lineup and register here.
New ‘Mindfulness Essentials’ series
The Bridges Institute is returning with our Mindfulness Essentials series in 2022! They began on March 23, and we will be offering six sessions every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. CPE credit will be issued for each hour attended.
Participants will also receive a link to join weekly, free 15-minute guided practices on Zoom—Tuesdays at 7:15 a.m. and Wednesdays at 12 p.m.