Nov. 9, 2023: What a Week

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

Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023

Illustration of zombie wearing a shirt that says H-B one, with a shadow that says voucher.

Voucher bill HB 1 died with the third special session of the Legislature this week. It was reborn — and made even more expensive — with the fourth. Illustration by Sierra Wiggers. 

On voters & vouchers

On the same day Gov. Greg Abbott called a fourth special session of the Texas Legislature in his quest for taxpayer-funded vouchers, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a long-overdue pension increase for retired educators and showed solid support for school bond packages and school employee pay raise propositions statewide.  

The juxtaposition couldn’t be clearer: The governor is focused on his political ambitions, but his priorities — and those of big-money voucher lobbyists — aren’t the same as everyday Texans.  

“As the governor and the Legislature continue their quest to sneak through a private school voucher scam, our members across the state are focused on real solutions for our kids, our communities, and ourselves,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “Clearly, Texas voters are too, stepping up to support their public schools even when the state won’t. The governor would do well to listen to them and stop trying to force vouchers on a state that has rejected them time and again.”  

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • We break down how public education — and a TRS COLA — fared on Election Day in Texas. 

  • The third special session is dead. Long live the fourth special session. 

  • What do you need to know before next week’s State Board of Education meeting? We’ll tell you.

  • A tenure debacle at UT-Tyler shows the first consequences of the passage of Senate Bill 18.

— Texas Legislature

Special Session 4: The Voucher Fight Continues

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

Since last week, a tremendous amount has happened in the Legislature — but also very little. In the final days of the third special session, the Texas House and Senate failed to pass border security and voucher legislation. 

Killing vouchers yet again in the third special session represents a huge victory for public education supporters. Due to the unrelenting 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 continues to stand firm against a private school vouchers scheme. But the fight is not over yet.

Gov. Greg Abbott quickly issued a proclamation calling a fourth special session on the same issues. The fourth special session began Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. — just one hour after the third special session ended — and Chairman Brad Buckley immediately filed a new version of HB 1, his omnibus school funding and voucher bill. That bill is receiving a public hearing today (Thursday, Nov. 9). There is also a hearing scheduled for Friday in the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment to take up legislation related to school safety.

Submit Public Comments on HB 1: You can make your voice heard by submitting electronic public comments in the House portal before the end of the committee hearing.

Join Texas AFT’s Emergency Briefing: We are hosting an emergency legislative advocacy meeting today (Thursday) at 6 p.m. CT on ZOOM.

Call Your Representative: Lawmakers are under intense pressure from big-money voucher lobbyists and the governor. Click to call your rep.

Send a Letter to Committee Members: We need to reach all the House Select Committee members. Take 2 minutes to send them each an email.

— Elections

Texas Voters Turn Out for Public Schools in 2023 Elections

Photo of two Texas A-F-T Retiree Plus members ready to greet voters at the polls.

On Tuesday, more than 2 million Texas voters cast a ballot on 14 statewide propositions and in several local elections, a record high in a constitutional amendment election. More than 14% of registered voters in Texas cast a ballot, the highest percentage in an odd-year election since 2005.

There were several critical elections for educators on the ballot this November. Chief among them was Proposition 9, which provides some retired educators with their first pension cost-of-living adjustment in nearly two decades. Locally, there were also several school district bonds, school board races, and voter approval tax-rate elections in which Texas AFT local unions had vested interests.

We’ve got the results on our website, including the resounding victory for Proposition 9 and retired educators. 

— Reading Opens the World

Families show off the free books they picked up at the event.

Reading Opens the World: On Saturday, the Houston Federation of Teachers hosted a 40,000-book giveaway event for Houston ISD families and educators. At a time when book-banning is on the rise in Texas and HISD’s state-appointed superintendent has closed district libraries, our union is committed to real solutions that help kids learn to love reading and thrive as students. Read more about AFT’s student literacy initiatives.

— State Board of Education

Preview: State Board of Education’s November Meeting

Image reads: Eyes on the Board

The State Board of Education (SBOE) will hold its regular meeting in Austin next week. We will be closely watching several items, with special focus on those related to proposed science textbooks, HB 1605 implementation, and ethnic studies courses.

The SBOE will also hear general updates on the Generation 29 charter school application cycle and a preview of the State Board for Educator Certification meeting in December.

— Feature

Recognizing Shirley Harris: A Trailblazer in Education

Shirley Harris, a graduate of Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University) and trailblazer in the field of education and racial equality, will finally receive the recognition she deserves.

On Monday, Nov. 27, Harris’ alma mater, Texas State University, will dedicate the Shirley R. Harris Student Lounge in her honor.

The first in her family to graduate from college in 1967 when she received her bachelor’s in Elementary Education, Harris was also the first Black graduate of Southwest Texas State College.

— Higher Education

In Wake of SB 18 Passage, Tenure Debacle Emerges at UT-Tyler

In what would be the first documented case of tenured faculty in Texas being fired since Senate Bill 18 went into effect, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Tyler was informed she was set to be terminated effective Tuesday, Oct. 31, for allegedly violating university operating procedures.

As the Austin American-Statesman reported, Dr. Mickie Mwanzia Koster, an associate professor of history on Africa and the African Diaspora, was notified by email Oct. 16 that she was set to be fired. 

National and Texas Conference of AAUP officials immediately began efforts both to defend Koster’s rights to due process and to draw attention to the emerging consequences of SB 18’s passage this year.

— Horace Mann

Image reads: Happy American Education Week!

Thanks for being the glue!

It’s the shared effort of teachers, support staff, principals, administrators, students, families and communities that makes education a success. And we know educators are at the center of bringing it all together.

Thank you, this week and every week, for all you do.

We’re your biggest fan!


Horace Mann is a long-time TX AFT corporate supporter. Please visit us at or contact your local agent if we can be of service.


Horace Mann Service Corporation and certain of its affiliates (Horace Mann) enter into agreements with educational associations where Horace Mann pays the association to familiarize association members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services. Contact for more information.



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Recommended Reading

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

📖 By outing 19 students to their parents, Katy ISD violated Texas ethics codes for educators. The Katy Independent School District’s decision to out transgender students to their parents is not only what one attorney described as “bullying masquerading as policy” – it’s also a violation of the Texas Education Agency’s code of ethics. (Houston Landing, Nov. 6) 


📖 The other victim of the school voucher fight: teacher pensions. Like many supporters of public schools, I fear that taxpayer-funded private school vouchers will harm Texas students and Texas school staff. But not much has been said about how privatization would harm people like me, one of the hundreds of thousands of retired teachers across Texas receiving a pension from the Texas Retirement System. (San Antonio Report, Nov. 4) 

📖 We asked 15 HISD students about big changes on their campuses this year. Here’s what they said.
Over the past three weeks, the Houston Landing interviewed 15 Houston ISD high schoolers from 14 campuses, asking for their first-hand accounts of the changes. Two students attend a campus covered under Miles’ plan to overhaul 85 schools, including 11 high schools. The other 13 teens go to schools that aren’t part of the program, though they still reported major differences this year. (Houston Landing, Nov. 9)