November 19, 2021: Members save thousands erasing student loan debt; Locals in high gear with vaccine clinics; Vote in HISD race
Publish Date: November 19, 2021 1:23 pm Author: Texas AFT
The Hotline will take a break next week for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return on December 3.
Local unions kick into high gear with campaigns urging vaccinations at free clinics
Texas AFT local unions have been holding dozens of free COVID-19 and flu vaccination clinics the past month, and with shots allowable expanding to aged 5-12 students, they are planning even bigger pushes to get kids vaccinated.
Most of the clinics are staffed with union-member and school-district volunteers in partnership with health organizations.
Our Rio Grande Valley unions (McAllen, La Joya, Edinburg, PSJA, and Brownsville) have vaccinated hundreds of students and family members in the past month, with more clinics planned. Participants also were treated to free pizza at many of the clinics.
Socorro AFT in El Paso held its 11th vaccination clinic on Monday. A $17,500 grant from FirstBook also meant free books for students attending the clinic. “We know the safest way to have everyone in a classroom is to ensure that every student, teacher, and family member is vaccinated, so we are excited about now offering vaccinations to the younger kids—while also giving them the gift of new books,” said Veronica Hernandez, Socorro AFT president. “Our clinics are a great way to get the whole family motivated for vaccinations.”
AFT settlement on student loans leads to big results for members
After AFT settled its lawsuit over the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) program, members started seeing big results in their efforts to erase student loan debt. AFT member Jeri O’Bryan said she was able to wipe away $73,000 in loan debt with the program. “There’s a huge weight coming off my shoulders because of the work of AFT,” she said.
O’Bryan-Losse said that because previous attempts to navigate what was a cumbersome process, many teachers and other public-service employees have been hesitant to try again. “You need to understand that although you may be traumatized by the process you went through before, that there is help available to you now,” she said.
Important Houston ISD School Board runoff needs your vote!
Voters believe pay for teachers and support staff are a key issue in upcoming Houston school board runoffs.
Educators have the chance to support three candidates that have ALWAYS stood up for increasing school employee salaries.
The best Holidays gift you can give yourself this year is to vote for bosses that will respect you and support salary increases in the new year. We invite you to be a 2021 voter! Check out our page discussing the upcoming school board races and make sure to vote the Monday after Thanksgiving. Learn more about the election here.
Take action to help fund the community schools model for campus improvement
Texas AFT has been a long-time innovator and leader in implementing the community schools model that holistically supports struggling schools. Now, we have an opportunity to see a big boost for the program.
The White House and Congress have proposed a historic level of funding for full-service community schools—$443 million, which is more than a 1,200 percent increase from last year. However, this funding is not yet guaranteed. This is a pivotal time for community schools, and we need to keep the momentum going. Send an online letter to your lawmakers and urge them to include $443 million for full-service community schools in their appropriations bill!
Infrastructure bill passes, but comes up short on school investments
With the signature of President Joe Biden this week, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill will provide funding for improving the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, and a host of other badly-needed projects—including some funding for rural schools. However, wrangling over the price tag ultimately left a proposed $100 billion for school campus modernization out of the final package. Still included, however, is funding for electric school buses at $5 billion over five years.
The grants, intended to help local unions “Return, Recover, and Reimagine,” totaled $200,000 nationwide in this round, with more than $1 million invested since the start of the pandemic. Northside AFT’s grant will supply culturally responsive books for all Title I schools in Northside ISD and create a professional development training in culturally responsive pedagogy. The San Antonio Alliance’s grant will expand culturally responsive professional development by piloting a youth participatory action research component, and engaging educators in community-centered cultural projects.
Local union member testifies at nation’s Capitol on special education funding
Northside AFT’s Melina Espiritu-Azocar traveled to Washington DC on Tuesday to testify on how historic underfunding of the the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has impacted students with disabilities. Espiritu-Azocar joined several other organizations to promote “Fulfill the Promise,” an initiative to fully fund IDEA and ensure all children have access to special education services.