May 5, 2023: Where’s the REAL Teacher Appreciation?

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

Friday, May 5, 2023

How to ‘Appreciate’ Educators

Sen. Roland Gutierrez and Sen. Morgan LaMantia meet with Texas AFT members and leaders at the Capitol on Monday. Photo by Sierra Wiggers.

While many of their colleagues were struggling through STAAR testing with anxious students, 30 Texas teachers and school employees went to Austin again last week. 


They took the day off. They underwent the Herculean task of finding a sub. They braved the traffic. And they arrived at the Capitol with a simple message that bears repeating this session, apparently: We need more funding in our schools, more money in our pockets, and more respect for our profession. 


Our members visited 33 offices Wednesday. This session, we’ve visited well over 100. Together, as a union, we’ve also made more than 2,400 calls to legislators and sent more than 10,000 letters. 


We’ve testified on bills. We’ve written postcards. We’ve tweeted. We’ve made ourselves heard. Now the question is: Will this Legislature listen? 


Gov. Greg Abbott has been pressuring lawmakers to prioritize his pet project, private school vouchers, above all else. But a poll released this week shows vouchers aren’t a priority for most Texans. What do Texans think is “extremely” or “very” important?

  1. Increasing funding for school safety
  2. Increasing funding for public education
  3. Increasing pay for public school teachers

When you look at where things stand with just three weeks left in this session, though, most Texans can’t be pleased with the progress. 

“A $90 funding increase per student? That’s crumbs,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “A one-time $2,000 bonus for teachers? That’s crumbs. A 2% bump for retired teachers who haven’t seen a pension increase in decades? That’s crumbs. Why are we expected to be grateful for so little when this state has $188 billion in the bank and $33 billion extra in its couch cushions?”

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • We break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of this week at the Legislature. 
  • Next week, the House will take up the “Teacher’s Bill of Rights” and further attacks on higher education, while lawmakers hash out a COLA plan for retirees. 
  • Austin ISD announced an historic pay raise agreement with Education Austin. 
  • May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and we honor some remarkable Texans in our communities. 
  • Enter to win the Teacher Appreciation Week giveaway from our corporate supporter Horace Mann.

— Texas Legislature

This Week at the Legislature: 2 School Staffing Bills, 33 Office Visits, & Ten Commandments

Left to right: Brownsville Educators Stand Together (BEST AFT) members pose outside the Texas Capitol; Alliance/AFT President Rena Honea and member Chrisdya Houston visit Rep. Jessica Gonzalez’s office; Houston Federation of Teachers member Cheryl Laws visits Rep. Venton Jones’ office.

This Tuesday, May 2, was national Teacher Appreciation Day. But this week, the Texas Legislature continued to offer educators little in terms of meaningful respect. Texas AFT members were at the Capitol both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, testifying and visiting legislators. 


On our website, we have the full recap of a busy week, including: 

  • Two important school staffing bills finally got a hearing in the House Public Education Committee, which also had a lengthy discussion about the Ten Commandments …
  • While Texas AFT members knocked doors at the Capitol, others wrote 1,000 letters to lawmakers and helped drastically improve a bill that would have sent $1 billion to TEA and curriculum vendors. 
  • The Legislature chose once again to attack vulnerable LGBTQIA+ Texans and Texas children. We stand with our allies in condemning these attacks.

— Texas Legislature

Bills to Watch Next Week: ‘Teacher Bill of Rights,’ COLA, Higher Ed Attacks

The first of several notable deadlines for this Legislature happens Monday, May 8, which is the final day House committees can pass out House bills for a full vote. 


After Monday, House bills that have not been passed out of committee are effectively dead — unless they’re amended onto other bills moving through the process. 


Senate committees will continue to hear bills that have been passed out of the House, and House committees will continue to hear bills that have been passed out of the Senate. 


With that said, there is still much to pay attention to in the final three weeks of this session, including: 

  • SB 9, which has been touted as a “Teacher’s Bill of Rights,” is a mixed bag on educator paychecks and working conditions. The bill will be heard Tuesday by the House Public Education Committee. 
  • SB 10, the Legislature’s proposed cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators, is heading to a “conference committee,” where legislators will negotiate a final package. 
  • SB 17 & 18, weaken academic freedom in higher education by ending tenure and abolishing diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Both bills will be heard Monday by the House Committee on Higher Education.

More on those and other bills to watch, as well as ways you can take action this weekend, on our website.

— Local Win

Education Austin Wins Historic Pay Raise Agreement with Austin ISD

After a monthslong campaign, Education Austin has reached an historic agreement on compensation through elected consultation with Austin ISD that will result in pay raises for all district employees.


Included in the agreement:

  • 7% base pay increase for professional staff
  • $4 base pay increase for all classified staff
  • 25% increase to the district’s minimum wage, bringing it to $20 per hour
  • $7,000 stipend for bilingual and special education teachers
  • Improvements to the high school bilingual stipend structure, including making ASL and Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing teachers eligible to receive the stipend
  • No increase to insurance costs

The agreement also includes a clause that will reopen negotiations should the funding increase provided to the district by the Texas Legislature exceed $20 million. Read more about Education Austin’s campaign to win on our website.

— AAPI Heritage Month

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 will highlight 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.

For more ways to bring AAPI Heritage Month into the classroom, check out the free lesson plans and resources available to AFT members through Share My Lesson.