Nov. 4, 2022: Voting FAQs; TRS COLA would boost economy





More than 4 Million Texans Have Voted. Have You?

Today is the final day to vote early for crucial elections in Texas. Not only are statewide offices, the Texas Legislature, and the State Board of Education on your ballot, but so are local and county offices, school boards, and important school bonds. 

 

So far, more than 4 million Texans have cast their ballot, but that accounts for just 24% of registered voters in this state. If you haven’t joined them yet, there’s still time. 

 

If you need help finding your polling place, what’s on your ballot, or Texas AFT COPE’s endorsed candidates, we’ve got links to everything at vote.texasaft.org

 

When, Where, & How to Vote

Early voting ends today, and hours vary by county. Some large counties like Dallas, Travis, and Bexar have special late-night hours for this final day at certain polling locations. (Remember: During early voting, you can vote at any polling location in your county.)

 

Election Day, the final day to cast your ballot, is Tuesday, Nov. 8, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. statewide. 

 

Check the Texas Secretary of State’s website to see if your county offers countywide voting on Election Day. If not, you must vote in your home precinct. 

 

To cast your ballot, you must be registered to vote, and you must bring one of seven approved forms of identification. The address on your ID does NOT need to match the address where you are registered to vote, and the name on the ID does NOT need to match exactly the way your name is written on your voter registration.

Why Vote

There’s a lot at stake in this election: 

 

At  a recent GOTV event, Traci Dunlap, an Education Austin member and vice president of the Austin Central Labor Council, gave a short speech that gives a strong explanation for why you should vote:



“All around this country, working people are coming together in solidarity, even in places that have never been unionized before, demanding a voice and a seat at the table. We know that when we stand together, with one strong voice, we win!

 

My union, Education Austin, won a $2,000 retention bonus for all Austin ISD employees [this year]!


We got more planning time for elementary teachers and fought off efforts to take planning time away from secondary teachers. We won an increase to the district minimum wage, and when the district refused to pay teachers for training completed outside of our workday, we fought back — and we won.

Here in Austin ISD, we have five school board seats up for election. Education Austin and the Austin Central Labor Council have endorsed candidates with teaching experience, who have been in the classroom and understand the needs of our students, teachers, and support personnel. Will you join me in voting for candidates who support our public schools?”

 

Texas AFT COPE Endorsements

With 66% of our members telling us they’re thinking of leaving education because of stagnant pay, out-of-control workloads, concerns for their safety, and a general lack of respect, we know it’s more important than ever to elect candidates who aren’t just pro-education, but also pro-educator and pro-employee.

 

Based on responses to our public education questionnaire, voting records, and platforms, the Texas AFT Committee on Political Education (COPE) has approved a raft of endorsements, including our Respect Slate for statewide office

 

Your Rights as a Voter 

Yes, even with voter suppression law, Senate Bill 1, on the books, you have rights as a voter in Texas. As a voter, you have the right to …

If you experience any issues while voting, call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.



Join Fellow AFT Members to Text Out the Vote This Monday

 

Last Monday, Texas AFT members sent more than 12,000 texts to voters across the state. Can you help send more voting reminders on Election Eve?

 

Our union’s final texting mixer to get out the vote is this Monday at 6 p.m. CT. For a little extra fun, we’ll host a public education trivia game and be joined by some of our union’s endorsed candidates for the Texas Legislature, including Morgan LaMantia (SD 27), Elizabeth Ginsberg (HD 108), and Elva Curl (HD 112). 

 

All three candidates have signed Texas AFT’s Respect Pledge, and we want to make sure educators and voters in their House districts know who has pledged to stand with them. 

 

As with every texting mixer, the volunteer who sends the most texts by the end of the mixer will win a cash prize. 🏆 

RSVP online to get the Zoom link emailed to you!

Texas AFT Retired Educators will be making calls to urge their fellow retired educators to get out and vote! 

Join Texas AFT Retirees this Sunday at 3 PM All you need is a phone and a computer!

RSVP for our Retiree Phonebank to get the Zoom link emailed to you!


Lt. Gov. Patrick Backpedals on Vouchers, Attacks Teachers and Urban Public Schools




In an appearance on a Lubbock-based conservative radio show this Monday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick continued to push his unpopular private school voucher scheme and took swipes at urban public schools and teacher unions.


Private School Vouchers

Patrick reiterated his support for private school vouchers but added a major caveat: rural school districts, he said, would be “bracketed out.” Patrick, who is currently facing a tough reelection campaign against Mike Collier, Texas AFT COPE’s endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor, announced this major backtrack the week before Election Day. 



Private school vouchers are particularly unpopular in rural areas, where public schools are already underfunded, but polls have shown that they are generally unpopular across the state. A recent poll by The Texas Parent PAC found that 82% of Texas voters were concerned that vouchers would take away money from public schools. As recently as last year, both Democrats and Republicans in the Texas House voted overwhelmingly (115-29) to ban public school dollars from being sent to private schools. 


It is unclear how Patrick would “bracket out” rural school districts. The Texas public school finance system is entirely interconnected, so it is impossible to carve out rural public schools from the effects of private school vouchers. State funding for public schools comes from a variety of sources, primarily the Permanent School Fund, but the overall budget is as simple as a family budget. If some money is sent to private schools, it will negatively affect the state’s ability to fund public schools across the state.

 

In the past, Patrick has wholeheartedly supported vouchers, with no mention of “brackets” or caveats. In May of this year, Patrick stated he was “in full support” of so-called “school choice” schemes.

 

In response to Patrick’s statements on vouchers, his opponent, Collier, said, “As Lt. Governor, I will join Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House who have repeatedly and overwhelmingly banned the use of taxpayer funds for private school vouchers. Dan Patrick’s latest backtracking is just another last-minute, hollow campaign promise designed to save himself. Texas parents, students, and educators deserve better.”

If elected, Collier has promised to push for a state constitutional amendment to ban the use of taxpayer dollars for private school vouchers.


TRS Retirees Grow the Texas Economy, TRS ‘Value Brochure’ Show



This week, TRS released its annual “Value Brochure,” highlighting the value that TRS has brought to both its members and to the Texas economy over the past fiscal year. 

 

While TRS has had an increasingly positive impact on the Texas economy as a whole, TRS members who have retired since 2004 have never received a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their TRS annuities. Many retirees still receive the same monthly annuity now that they did over a decade ago, with no adjustment for inflation. More than a decade of inflation has severely shrunk the purchasing power of those retired educators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. dollar today is worth only about two-thirds of what it was worth in 2004.

 

TRS announced that average TRS monthly life annuity for FY 2022 was $2,174, up less than $30 from last year’s average. 

 

Because more recent retirees generally have higher monthly annuities than their counterparts who retired in previous years, the average monthly annuity goes up each year. However, an individual retiree’s monthly annuity is set for life once they retire unless the Legislature takes action to pass a COLA, so the average increase in annuity has no effect on an individual retiree’s experience. 

 

Figures included in the brochure showed that TRS was a powerful force in stimulating the Texas economy. TRS estimates that 94% of all TRS pension payments were spent locally in Texas, a higher figure than most other states. 

 

When combining the economic impact of pension payments and health care payments made by the system, TRS estimates that last year, it was responsible for adding $23.9 billion to the state’s total gross domestic product (GDP), a figure commonly used to measure the health of economies. TRS estimates that the system’s pension and health care payments created 268,183 jobs in Texas last year, and the TRS investment fund has $9.5 billion worth of holdings invested in Texas-based businesses.

Despite the economic benefits that the TRS pension system creates, the Texas Legislature has not invested in TRS members. TRS serves over 1.9 million total members. According to data from the U.S. Census, one out of every 20 Texans is a TRS member. TRS’ numbers suggest that if these retirees were to be given more buying power through routine adjustments to their pensions, the effect on the Texas economy would be staggering.


November is Native American Heritage Month. Here in Texas, we #TeachTheTruth. Teaching the ways of life of indigenous peoples from around the world is important to understanding our shared sense of humanity, and Share My Lesson has free lessons, activities, and videos to help you do just that.


Need a rental car? With rising prices on rentals, you’ll need your Texas AFT discount. Pick any of the major brands, including any that you are loyalty members with, and search directly through our member benefits site at UnionPlus.org. You’ll save up to 35%!