Nov. 3, 2023: The Voting Window Is Closing

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

Friday, November 3, 2023

[VIDEO] Texas AFT Retiree Plus members like Phyllis Ruffin, Rita Runnels, and Lydia Carrillo-Valdez launched their fight for a TRS COLA in 2018. Hear from them on why Prop 9 is a much-needed beginning for retirement justice.

They’re counting on you

With only a few days left until Election Day on Nov. 7, retired educators have been busy getting out the vote for Proposition 9, which will provide some retired educators with their first pension cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in nearly two decades. Early voting began last Monday, and retirees have been busy making calls, sending texts, greeting voters at the polls, and spreading their message to the news media.

But they alone can’t do it alone. If this long-awaited cost-of-living adjustment is to pass, everyone needs to go out and vote. As of Thursday, Nov. 2, after nearly two weeks of early voting, only 4.4% of registered Texas voters had cast a ballot for Proposition 9. 

While the passage of this COLA would benefit those who retired before Aug. 31, 2020, a strong showing at the polls in support of Prop 9 will undoubtedly increase the likelihood of COLAs being offered to retirees in the future. 

While retirees have been showing up to the Capitol for years, now is an opportunity for all of Texas to show up for them.

Will you show up for Lydia Carrillo-Valdez?

Will you show up for Bob Gibbons and Becky Bennett?

Will you show up for Sonja Pace? 

 Will you show up for Linda White and Elaine Jones? 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Vouchers are dead. Again. Will they stay that way?

  • Meanwhile, the voucher fight has made its way to the U.S. Congress, too. 

  • A-F ratings for Texas schools will be further delayed as districts suing TEA win a temporary injunction. 

  • Have thoughts on STAAR, TELPAS, or HB 1605? There are two ways to get involved in statewide discussions.

— Event

Nov. 4: Texas AFT Statewide Advocacy Day on Prop 9 

In order to ramp up turnout on Nov. 7, active and retired Texas AFT members will be making calls this Saturday, Nov. 4, from 2- p.m. to 4 p.m. CT. AFT members will be gathered both on Zoom and at their local AFT offices.

Anyone can join the event via Zoom, but retirees in certain areas across the state will be gathering in their local union offices to make calls together at a single location.

Nov. 6: Statewide Textbank with Congressman Vicente Gonzalez

At 6 p.m. CT,  Monday, Nov. 6, the day before Election Day, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) will join us as a special guest for our virtual Zoom textbank. Gonzalez has sponsored multiple bills to address the WEP/GPO issue that curtails retired educators’ Social Security benefits. 

This week, Texas AFT members sent nearly 50,000 texts to registered voters. We need your help to increase that volume for Election Day.

— Texas Legislature

Despite Gov. Abbott’s Posturing, No Deal on Vouchers

Image reads: News from the special 88th legislative session.

Despite a whirlwind of activity early in the week, Gov. Greg Abbott has yet again failed to pass his private school voucher scheme. Thanks to the advocacy of thousands of Texas AFT members making phone calls, sending letters, and visiting their representatives at the Capitol, a bipartisan majority of members of the Texas House has stood firm against a private school vouchers scheme.

Despite the fact that vouchers seem to be dead for this special session, the governor has vowed to call another, and so it is critically important that we keep the heat up. Contact your representative now.  

How’d it happen? Read more in our full recap online.

— National

Advocates Representing Over 4 Million Educators, 1,000 Higher Education Institutions Fight Back Against Attacks on Freedoms

(Left) AFT President Randi Weingarten, Network for Public Education President Diane Ravitch, and National Education Association President Becky Pringle spoke together at a conference keynote session. (Right) Houston Federation of Teachers leaders and parent allies with Community Voices for Public Education presented their efforts to fight back against the state’s takeover of Houston ISD.

This past weekend, representatives from Texas AFT and the Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT) attended the 10th-annual Network for Public Education conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was primarily focused on the privatization attacks against public schools, particularly the attempts to implement private school vouchers in other states. 

Presentations included researchers and educators from other states that have implemented vouchers, and all had similar stories: 

  • ballooning budgets for voucher privatization while public schools suffer

  • rampant fraud and abuse of voucher funds

  • multiple forms of discrimination against students and families

  • less per-pupil funding available for public schools that serve all students

Protecting the Freedom to Learn

At the end of the conference, advocates from across the K-12 and higher education spheres united in a joint pledge to fight back against extremist political assaults on public education, academic freedom, and vulnerable students in the nation’s public schools and universities.

The American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of University Professors, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Network for Public Education launched a Freedom to Learn pledge, calling out the coordinated effort to push laws and rhetoric in multiple states aimed at banning books and curriculums, attacking teachers, and shaming LGBTQIA+ students, all while pushing voucher and privatization schemes to undermine and gut public education.

— Privatization

With New Congressional Leadership, Voucher Peddlers Take Their Grift to D.C.

Last week, congressional Republicans finally chose a Speaker of the House after weeks of intra-party fights. Last Thursday, Republicans finally agreed to elect Congressman Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) as Speaker of the House. 

Despite his relatively low national profile prior to being elected speaker, Johnson has taken a leading role in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Even with weeks of backlogged work on the House floor due to the vacancy in the speaker’s office, the House Ways and Means Committee convened Thursday to discuss vouchers, a seemingly clear indication of what is to come under the new House speaker’s leadership.

The one-sided committee hearing featured no public education advocates as speakers, and the witness list was headlined by the billionaire-funded voucher peddler Corey DeAngelis. The core topic of discussion during the hearing was expanding the expansion of uses for 529 tax-exempt education accounts. Currently, many parents use this special investment account to save up for higher education costs, as these accounts are tax- advantaged. 

Voucher peddlers seek to co-opt these 529 accounts, funding them with taxpayer dollars and expanding their usage to pay for K-12 private schools. 

In a full and total rejection of the premise of private school vouchers, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) called the plans to divert taxpayer dollars to private schools, “an attempt to undermine our public schools.” Watch Doggett’s full comments on our website.

— Texas Education Agency

Help Shape The Future of Education in Texas: 2 Ways You Can Speak Up About Curriculum, Assessment Changes

As the third special session winds down, educators can continue to make a difference for public education in numerous ways statewide. It is critical that our members participate in ongoing conversations at decision-making tables. After all, you are the experts.

Texas Educator Committees

The Texas Education Agency is recruiting qualified educators to participate in committees for the Texas Assessment Program (STAAR and TELPAS). The numerous Texas assessments’ development depends on valuable input from educators to help design the test questions that produce the best outcomes for students. TEA is seeking diverse, qualified teachers to ensure that these assessments reflect what students are taught. 

In return for participating in an educator committee, all travel expenses are paid and participants earn continuing professional education (CPE) credits. Meetings are held throughout the year, usually in the summer, with most meetings lasting two to three days. This is an in-depth opportunity to  learn “how the sausage is made.” Applications are considered on a rolling basis. If you’re interested, please apply here!

HB 1605 Focus Groups

House Bill 1605, passed in the regular session of the 88th Legislature this spring, requires the Texas Education Agency to develop rubrics to evaluate the quality of instructional materials with the consultation and approval of the State Board of Education. 

The SBOE directed TEA to develop rubrics for K–8 English language arts and reading, K–6 Spanish language arts and reading, and K–12 mathematics. TEA is seeking educator feedback on the draft Instructional Materials Review & Approval Rubrics and is hosting focus groups for educators, education service centers, and publishers.

This is a critical opportunity for members to make their voices heard on implementing a deeply flawed bill

Educator Focus Groups

— Awareness Month

In Texas, we still #TeachTheTruth. November is National Native American Heritage Month, and teaching the ways of life of Indigenous peoples from around the world is important to understanding our shared sense of humanity. Share My Lesson, free to all AFT members, has lessons, activities, and videos to delve into first nations’ culture and heritage.

— Texas Education Agency

TEA’s New School Rating System Blocked in Court

A lawsuit filed by Texas public school districts against the Texas Education Agency’s proposed revision of the school accountability rating system has clocked its first court victory. Late last week, a Travis County judge temporarily blocked TEA from releasing this year’s school ratings, which would have the revised standards retroactively applied to the 2022-2023 school year. 


This temporary injunction prohibits TEA and Education Commissioner Mike Morath from assigning new A-F school performance ratings until ordered, with a trial date set for Feb. 12. 

As we reported in August, seven school districts initially filed a lawsuit against Morath, specifically requesting that TEA delay the implementation of a proposed “refresh” of the accountability system announced this spring. Since then, the number of plaintiffs has ballooned to more than 100.

— National

Low Wages, No Respect: New AFT Report Highlights the Struggles of Adjunct Professors

A new national adjunct faculty survey from the American Federation of Teachers underscores the continuing crisis faced by millions of contingent workers at the nation’s colleges and universities—with little improvement to poverty wages and untenable conditions in the wake of the pandemic.

AFT’s latest Army of Temps report, the third in a series, documents the troubling reality faced by millions of professional educators and illustrates how adjuncts struggle with low pay, inadequate access to benefits, little or no job security, and a lack of professional respect.

“Educators’ teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions—but it’s difficult to focus on the educational and social needs of your students when you don’t even know if you will have a paycheck coming next semester or whether that check will help you make ends meet.” 

— AFT President Randi Weingarten        

Recommended Reading

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

📖 El Paso teachers leaving jobs at record rates. Data obtained from the local school districts by El Paso Matters shows teachers across the city have been leaving their jobs at a growing rate in recent years as educators grappled with burnout and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (El Paso Matters, Oct. 29) 


📖 Preschool Funding Loophole has Tax Dollars Going to Religious Schools. Who Benefits? Through October, legislators have been debating whether public school money should be diverted to pay for Texans’ private school tuition. But that’s already happening, through a little-discussed program that some call a “loophole” or “gaming the system.” (Austin Chronicle, Oct. 27) 


📖 Edgewood ISD chief says charter competition is driving its need to shutter schools. Edgewood Independent School District, one of the poorest school systems in Texas, has half-empty campuses and shrinking enrollment. Unlike neighboring school systems facing the same problem, it says the main reason is charter school competition. (San Antonio Express-News, Oct. 23)