Publish Date: May 30, 2023 2:59 pm Author: Texas AFT
Friday, May 26, 2023
Is this a joke?
There are three days left in the regular session of the 88th Texas Legislature. And as of this writing, there are $0 dedicated in the proposed final state budget for public school employee raises.
After more than a month of negotiations in a conference committee of representatives and senators, House Bill 1, the proposed state budget was released Thursday. It contains no increase to the basic allotment for students and no raises for teachers or school staff.
So where’s the money? It’s being held hostage for a private school voucher. In exchanges on the Senate floor today, senators all but admitted it. House Bill 100, a previously well-intentioned school funding bill that was hijacked by the Senate’s voucher caucus, now sits in a conference committee for negotiations.
But let’s be clear: This isn’t a good-faith negotiation. It’s a hostage situation. A $50 increase to the basic allotment does not make defunding our schools through vouchers palatable. Especially not when we need a $1,000 per-student increase just to match inflation.
For weeks, we worried that this Legislature was going to give public school employees crumbs. Instead, with a state surplus larger than the entire budgets of 24 states, lawmakers want to put strings on those crumbs.
As it looks right now, the only way we’ll get a basic allotment increase in the state budget in this regular session, apparently, is if House Bill 100 passes. The only way HB 100 should pass is if it’s clean of a voucher.
More from this final week of the state Legislature, including updates on retired educators’ COLA and attacks on higher education.
Also brewing in the Legislature, indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton’s chickens are finally coming home to roost.
We close out AAPI Heritage Month with a spotlight on McAllen AFT’s Jennifer Han, the 2022 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year.
With the end of the year comes worries about lost textbooks and technology. Know your rights.
This (Last) Week in the Texas Legislature: More Questions Than Answers
The last full week of the Texas legislative session ended with final decisions on several important pieces of legislation, but going into the session’s final weekend, major bills relating to school finance, private school vouchers, pensions for retired educators, the future of higher education, and more are still undecided.
Public Education: Vouchers Strike Back, School Finance in Limbo
The last week of session started with a surprise hearing by the Senate Education Committee. With less than 24 hours notice, the Senate Education Committee scheduled a hearing on House Bill 100, the school finance bill by Chairman Ken King (R-Canadian). The bill was originally intended to increase school funding and provide raises to teachers, but the Texas Senate hijacked the bill to include a private school voucher.
This week the Texas House passed SB 17 and SB 18, both by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). SB 17, which would ban Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs on college campuses, received an initial vote of support last Friday and received final approval Monday. SB 18, which would weaken tenure offered by Texas colleges, received an initial vote Monday and received a final approval vote Tuesday.
Several lawmakers in the Texas House, especially members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TXLBC) and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), offered a strong defense of DEI and tenure themselves. Legislators offered several amendments to improve them. Unfortunately, few were adopted.
One key amendment offered by Rep. Sheryl Cole (D-Austin), however, was accepted. The amendment expanded the property right definition outlined in the bill. Tenure is fundamentally a property right, so the language outlining what a person’s specific property interest is fundamentally determines the strength of their tenure. The more robust language offered by Cole will go a long way in defending professors’ rights.
Retirement: COLA Headed to the Polls
This week offered a more detailed glimpse into what the TRS COLA bill, SB 10, will look like. SB 10 was approved by the House and Senate in April, but the bill has been the subject of conference committee negotiations since then. Both the House and the Senate passed very different versions of SB 10.
Last week, the Senate finance committee confirmed that SB 10 would be funded by HJR 2, a constitutional amendment that would provide the appropriations to pay for the COLA. Because this spending is included in a constitutional amendment, not in the state budget, voters will have to approve this amendment at the ballot box this November.
The COLA provided by SB 10 is contingent on voters approving HJR 2 at the ballot box this November, but the supplemental check that is offered to certain retirees is not contingent on voter approval.
House Committee Unanimously Recommends Paxton Impeachment
This Thursday, the Texas House General Investigating Committee recommended that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton be impeached due to a plethora of abuses he is alleged to have committed while in office.
The committee filed a total of 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, ranging from obstruction of justice to taking bribes. Many of the articles involve Paxton misusing his public office to support the interests of Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer and prominent donor to Paxton’s campaigns.
In addition to the illegal activity laid out in the articles of impeachment, Paxton has also been under a separate federal indictment for the past 8 years. In 2015, a grand jury indicted Paxton on securities fraud allegedly committed while he was a member of the House of Representatives.
Apart from his legal troubles, Paxton has spent his tenure as attorney general attacking public schools, undermining the integrity of our state’s elections, and denying basic rights to LGBTQIA+ Texans. Paxton moved to ban mask mandates by local government entities, including public schools, at the height of the pandemic in 2020. He has also joined lawsuits opposing student debt relief at the federal level.
Texas AFT Celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an important time for educators and students to celebrate the contributions and achievements of individuals from these communities in all aspects of society. It’s also a chance to educate about the discrimination and racism faced by these communities, historically and still today.
Each week of AAPI Heritage Month, Texas AFT has highlighted a Texan 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.
Nominated by Clarissa Riojas, vice president of McAllen AFT
As a student, Jennifer Han discovered her calling thanks to inspiration from her teachers in McAllen ISD. From as early as childhood, she knew that she wanted to make a difference through education.
Now, she does so as a fourth-grade teacher at Seguin Elementary in McAllen ISD.
That she makes a difference for her students and her community has never been in doubt. But last year, Han received official validation of that fact.
In 2022, Han was named Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year.
It’s the end of the year. Do your students know where their textbooks, Chromebooks, and calculators are? As you wrap up the year, know your rights if you or your students have had textbooks or instructional technology materials lost or stolen. Read our guide online.
Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time