May 3, 2024: No Confidence

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

Friday, May 3, 2024

Tweet from the A-A-U-P rally in support of the students arrested at the protest.

This week, Houston ISD educators and UT Austin faculty both circulated resolutions of no confidence in their district and university administrators. Across the state and across the full spectrum of public education, Texas educators demand better for their students.  

No Confidence 

“The takeover of Houston ISD, the largest school district in Texas and the eighth-largest district in the country, is a politically motivated, irresponsible experiment that is worsening inequities and disenfranchising Houston voters. Houston ISD teachers and support staff have come together now to call for a vote of no confidence in state-installed Superintendent Mike Miles.”  

So reads the opening lines of a resolution of no confidence passed by Houston Federation of Teachers leadership this week and sent to its full membership for ratification.  

“The President has shown himself to be unresponsive to urgent faculty, staff, and student concerns. He has violated our trust. The University is no longer a safe and welcoming place for the diverse community of students and scholars who until now have called this campus home.” 

So reads the open letter, “UT Faculty Have No Confidence in President Hartzell,” circulated by UT Austin AAUP over the past week. As of this writing, the letter has collected 655 faculty signatures. 

Whether it’s K-12 or higher education, there is little confidence to go around in the state of Texas’ stewardship of its public schools. We stand with every educator who demands better.  

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • From its SB 17 overcompliance to its violent suppression of student protests, we recount the current troubles at UT Austin.  
  • Guess what: Another poll of likely Texas voters shows they don’t support private school vouchers.  
  • News from the interim legislative session: lawmakers’ temper tantrums over new Title IX protections, new committee on AI meets 
  • Pull out your calendar and jot down some upcoming events. 

— Higher Education

State troopers stand off with university protesters camping in the south mall on U-T campus.

Amid Protests of Students, Faculty, and Staff, the State Tightens Its Grip on the University of Texas at Austin 

In April, state leaders’ attempted stranglehold over the University of Texas at Austin, Texas’ premier public university, came to a head in several ways. The month began with the university laying off dozens of employees who formerly worked in positions that dealt with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. The month ended with state troopers marching on campus to disrupt anti-war protests at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott and with the approval of UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. 

— Event

Event graphic.

Educating Texas: Is Change Possible? 

Tuesday, May 14 

6-7 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 this Tuesday, May 14, where we’ll try to find an answer to the question on everyone’s mind: “Is change possible in Texas?” Sign up for this and all other sessions on our Mobilize page. 

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

— LGBTQ+ Rights

Title IX Tensions: Texas Clashes with Biden Administration Over Title IX LGBTQ+ Student Protections 

In a defiant move against the Biden Administration’s reinterpretation of Title IX, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have chosen to fight federal mandates that expand protections to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The administration’s revised guidelines redefine sex-based discrimination to extend safeguards to LGBTQ+ students.  

Abbott has instructed the Texas Education Agency to ignore these new rules, asserting that they overstep the original purpose of Title IX, enacted to prevent discrimination against women in educational settings. 

The governor’s move, inviting a protracted legal battle at taxpayer expense, follows quickly in the footsteps of his remarks in April, attacking LGBTQ+ educators and calling for an “end” to transgender teachers. 

— Privatization

Survey Says (Again) Little Support for Vouchers Among Texans 

Last week, the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation released the results of its poll tracking likely Texas voters’ opinions on key legislative and political issues. Gov. Greg Abbott’s quest for a private school voucher program was among the topics posed to likely November voters, and the results are what everyone (except maybe the governor) already knew. 

According to this latest poll, 57% of likely Texas voters are opposed to using taxpayer dollars to provide private school vouchers to all parents. Opposition to vouchers is strong among all gender, race, and partisan lines:  

  • 68% of Black Texans, 58% of Hispanic Texans, and 55% of white Texans 
  • 77% of Democrats, 56% of Independents, and 43% of Republicans 
  • 60% of women and 54% of men 
  • 58% of Texans in urban areas, 58% in suburban areas, and 57% in rural areas 

Compare those results with the other education-related question from the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation poll: Do you support increasing pay for public school teachers in Texas? The responses to that question are as close to unanimity as it gets in today’s political climate.  

— Event

Text Out the Educator Vote with Texas AFT COPE 

Thursday, May 16 

6-7 p.m. CT 

Without new leadership that makes public education a real priority, we cannot build the future we want to see: one with public schools funded and supported to thrive. Election Day for the primary runoffs in Texas is May 28, setting up a crucial general election for public schools this November. Join Texas AFT COPE for political action text banks on Zoom so we can make sure every educator in Texas knows what’s on their ballot and what’s at stake this election year! 

For more information and for Texas AFT COPE’s current endorsements, visit our Voter Education Hub at 

Education Austin employees stand outside the austin I-s-d building with signs demanding better wages.

Last week, dozens of Education Austin members rallied at the Austin ISD headquarters in support of acrosstheboard raises for all school employees. Many Education Austin members also made their voices heard during the public comment period of that evening’s board meeting.

Speaking about the need for the district to support educators, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said: “I’m very proud of our Education Austin members. We recognize that it is this governor and our Legislature that is defunding public education, but we also realize that this school district, AISD, is responsible for taking care of its employees taking care of them and treating them respectfully. So, we will continue to show and tell them to make it right regardless of what the state does because this district needs to make it right by its employees.” 

— Texas Legislature

Texas House Committee Investigates AI & Its Impact 

On Monday, the newly formed State House Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Emerging Technologies held its first meeting. The committee, which was formed to determine “the ways AI is integrated into our everyday lives and the potential security risks that come along with the emerging technology,” met to discuss its goals for an upcoming report on the issue as part of the interim period between legislative sessions. 


One of the major reasons for the committee’s investigation is to determine the potential criminalization and punishment for using AI with malicious intent. 


“Anytime there’s a major technological advance there’s a risk that comes with it,” said committee Chair Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) “Obviously, with elections and other things we’re worried about, deep fakes, changing people’s audios, and simply creating new tweets and such. It’s a potential risk not just to the candidate but also to the voters themselves.” 

— State Board for Educator Certification

State board for educator certification logo.

SBEC Recap: Updates on Educator Preparation, Pedagogy Standards

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) convened in Austin last Friday for its regularly scheduled meeting. 

Among the items of interest for this meeting was a discussion item on Chapter 235, related to the teacher pedagogy standards. These act as the basis for what educator preparation programs (EPPs) are required to teach and later how teachers will be evaluated when they enter the profession. Absent from the proposed rules was the foundation skill of how to design and plan a lesson. Instead, language was inserted on evaluating and selecting high-quality instructional materials (HQIM).  

This is alarming because though HB 1605 does require EPPs to train candidates on the availability and use of HQIM, it did not require the removal of the essential training needed for teachers to be able to design and plan a lesson. This would be a radical shift in teacher training. 

Recommended Reading

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

📖  TEA is using computers to grade the STAAR test. Just don’t call it AI, officials say. The Texas Education Agency is defending its decision to let computers grade students’ STAAR essay test questions in the face of mounting criticism from parents and teachers who question the fairness of an automated scoring system. (Houston Chronicle, May 1)  


📖  Texas fortified campuses after Uvalde, but gun violence affecting schools continues. In the past two weeks, gunfire has rocked three North Texas school communities. None of the incidents devolved into the kind of mass shooting the nation has come to know too well. But they shook students’ sense of security and ignited questions about what more leaders can do to keep children safe. (Dallas Morning News, April 27)  


📖  TX educators react to Lt. Gov. priorities for next legislative session. Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick has released 57 “interim charges,” the topics he wants Senate committees to study in preparation for the 89th legislative session next year. Four charges are for the committee overseeing public education. (Public News Service, April 24)