March 31, 2023: It Happened Again.

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

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Legislature Sends Its Thoughts & Prayers.

A memorial for the children and teachers killed by a shooter at Robb Elementary

A memorial for the children and teachers killed by a shooter at Robb Elementary

It happened again Monday. At this point, you likely don’t need an explanation of “it.” 


On Monday, a shooter armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun (all purchased legally) killed three children and three staff members at a private school in Nashville. 

We know the standard operating procedure after these tragedies. There will be parsing of motives. There will be blame cast in all the wrong directions. And there will be vows to “harden” schools. 


But where is the action on the real problem with “school safety”? The unfettered access to guns. Where is the sense of urgency in our own Legislature — in a state that has endured more than 100 school shootings since 2000 — to solve this crisis? 


Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, has filed Senate Bill 145, which would increase the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. This is a measure that would have directly prevented the shooting at Robb Elementary last year, and yet that bill is still waiting to even get a committee hearing in the Texas Senate. 


Likewise, 98% of Texas students attend schools without proper staffing of nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers. The priority of our legislators should be funding our public schools well enough that they can hire for these positions, pay them well, and give them time to catch red flags before tragedy happens. 


Instead, they’re spending time debating school voucher programs that would further defund public schools. 


“We can put all these bells and whistles on the side that we want to,” said Zeph Capo on Tuesday in response to TEA’s proposed safety improvements. “It’s only going to tinker around the edges of the real problem.”  

The Legislature has about 60 days left to act instead of tinker.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • It was a truly wild week in the Texas Legislature, with committees debating a variety of education bills, some good and many bad.
  • Next week, the Texas House brings its proposed budget to the floor. And if you’re looking for raises for school employees, you’ll need a microscope. It’s time to call your representatives!
  • Houston school employees, parents, and community members rallied Friday against the Texas Education Agency’s planned takeover of Houston ISD. 
  • A new bill in the U.S. Congress would reduce the amount of standardized testing requirements for our schools.

— Texas Legislature

Recap: This Week at the Legislature

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis testifies before the House Public Education Committee.

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis testifies before the House Public Education Committee. 


This week, committees of the Texas Legislature considered bills that had dramatic implications for public education, higher education, and retired educators. We’ve got a full recap of the most important moments and bills under consideration our website, including: 

  • The House Public Education Committee considered a bill that would make it more difficult for the elected State Board of Education to veto a charter school application, and the House Land and Resource Management Committee considered a bill that would exempt charter schools from city zoning laws. 
  • Additionally, the House Public Education Committee heard testimony on a bill that would effectively ban school-sponsored Pride celebrations. 
  • The Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education considered a bill that would prevent higher education institutions from offering tenure to professors. 
  • One of several COLA bills passed the Texas Senate unanimously and would provide retired educators with a one-time cost-of-living adjustment to their TRS monthly annuity, from 2-4%.

— Texas Legislature

Next Week in the Legislature: Bills to Watch

Text reads: Call your representative. More funding, not less for public schools. Raises, not vouchers.

The Texas House will vote on its version of the state budget, HB 1, this Thursday. Currently, the proposed budget does not provide adequate funding for public education to fully fund public schools


As it stands, educators will not receive the across-the-board pay raises they deserve, and the school staffing crisis will intensify. The current budget would provide certified educators with just a $2,000 raise, and it provides no guaranteed pay raise for support staff.

We have to act fast to fix this. We need everyone to take action and call their representative.  Demand that they fully fund public education and deliver the minimum raise you’re owed: $10,000 for teachers and certified staff and 15% for support staff.

There are also some important bills related to school financed and educator salaries being heard by the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday. Read more on our website.

— Event

Facebook Live: Speak Now or Settle for a $0 Raise

This Wednesday, the night before the budget hits the House floor, Texas AFT is hosting a Facebook Live event to provide a full update on where things stand. 

On that call, we will take action together and make our voices heard on this unacceptable budget before it’s too late. RSVP and put it on your calendar.

— HISD Takeover

‘Stand Up, Fight Back’: Houston Educators, Parents Rally Against TEA Takeover as Questions Go Unanswered

Left, AFT President Randi Weingarten, U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, and HESP President Wretha Thomas with Houston ISD students; right, Texas AFT members listen to speakers at the Friday rally. 


On Friday, Houston Federation of Teachers and Houston Educational Support Personnel members rallied with community members and AFT President Randi Weingarten against the Texas Education Agency’s planned takeover of Houston ISD


Friday was a holiday for district students and employees, commemorating the work of labor activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Fittingly, the community’s march and rally took place at Cesar Chavez High School. 


A full roster of speakers and participants — including U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Rep. Al Green, state Rep. Ron Reynolds, and state Rep. Jon Rosenthal — gathered to denounce TEA’s ouster of HISD’s democratically elected school board. 


“When education is under attack, what do we do?” said Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, at the event. “Stand up, fight back.”


In another development Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging that TEA is violating the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by replacing Houston ISD’s elected board.

Read more from Houston on our website.

— Testing

Bill Introduced in Congress Would Reduce Standardized Testing Requirements

For decades, schools have been subject to annual federal testing requirements in reading, math, and science. These tests have driven so much else of what happens in schools — with consequences like teaching to the test and crowding out art, music, and any other subject that isn’t tested.


These tests are inappropriately used for decisions about grade retention, graduation, teacher evaluation, and even teacher pay. 


Do they give educators useful information? No. 


Do they support student learning? No. 


Do they make students want to learn? No. 

The More Teaching Less Testing Act (HR 1741), introduced by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), would reduce the number of federally mandated assessments that schools must administer. 

Our national AFT union has set up an online letter you can send directly to your U.S. representative, urging them to support the More Teaching Less Testing Act. Click to write your message.

— Sponsored Message

DonorsChoose Giveaway from Horace Mann

Bloom your classroom with Horace Mann’s $10,000 DonorsChoose giveaway! Enter your DonorsChoose project from March 6 – April 7 for your chance to win. Every day from April 3 – 7, Horace Mann will draw winners and fund at least $2,000 in DonorsChoose projects! Enter online.

Texas AFT Celebrates Women’s History Month

Text reads: Texas A-F-T celebrated women's history month.

March is Women’s History Month, an important time for educators and students to celebrate the achievements, brilliance, and legacies of the women who transformed society and paved the road for the struggle for equality that continues today.


Each week of Women’s History Month, Texas AFT has highlighted a Texan woman from our communities and current or retired Texas school employees, all nominated by our local leaders.


We believe to #TeachTheTruth, we must recognize and lift up the contributions of the wonderfully diverse population of our state, our country, and our world.

Photo of Glenn Scott.

Glenn Scott

Glenn Scott was known for being on every picket line and at every action on behalf of Austin area workers. She was also known for the elaborate hats she wore while taking up those fights. 


The hats — union-made — were remnants of her organizing work with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. In decades of organizing, Scott also worked with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, before moving to support educators and school employees with AFT and Education Austin. 

Nominated by Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT

Photo of Traci Dunlap.

Traci Dunlap

There is very little that happens in the world of education and organized labor in Austin that doesn’t involve Traci Dunlap. 


A kindergarten teacher at Maplewood Elementary in Austin ISD, Dunlap also keeps herself plenty busy working on behalf of her fellow Education Austin members. 


Not only is she a member of the local union’s executive board committee, she is also a longtime member of Education Austin’s legislative committee and member organizer group. 

Nominated by Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT

Recommended Reading

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

📖The real story behind the state takeover of Houston public schools. The takeover is the latest move in a long list of actions by Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration to attack public school districts and expand privatized alternatives, including poorly regulated charter schools and now a proposed voucher program that would use public money for private and religious education. (The Washington Post, March 27)

📖One Idea to Keep Teachers From Quitting — End the Teacher Time Crunch. What would it mean to respect teachers’ time? According to educators, a crucial part of that is leaders recognizing the hours teachers are expected to put in, long after the last bell rings. “Teaching is like two full-time jobs,” a Texas teacher who recently quit wrote in a survey to the task force. “There is no such thing as balance. … This is a crisis.” (EdSurge, March 16)


📖 Landry: The final word on vouchers. In the final analysis, let us be very clear. Voucher programs do not work and are an additional burden to taxpayers. Why are voucher program advocates obsessed with doing a program that does not produce slam dunk results? Those are questions that never get answered. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, March 23)