November 5, 2021: Gov. joins the culture war fray on school books, history; Notable election results; Erase student debt with Summer!


Governor tries to demonize school boards and educators to push public schools away from teaching accurate history

Last week’s Hotline described how one state lawmaker was using his role as a legislator chairing an investigations committee to throw incendiary on issues around race, sex, and gender taught in schools—Rep. Matt Krause’s letter demanding districts conduct a search and inventory of 850 books and other school resources he finds objectionable.

Not wanting to miss the political parade of nonsense, Gov. Greg Abbott joined the fray by penning his own letter this week demanding that the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) ensure that no students are exposed to pornography. TASB responded that the governor was mistaken and that the Texas Education Agency, the State Board of Education, and local districts should be responsible for monitoring curriculum materials. (TASB is a nonprofit professional organization that supports school boards and administrators with training and developing local policy.)

Abbott’s letter is misdirected and a blatant way of attacking school boards in general through their supporting professional organization. “The governor is setting the stage to demonize school boards and educators,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president. “Ultra right-wing conservatives know that if they start culture wars and nonsensical crusades at the local level, they can use those skirmishes to fuel their election ambitions.”

Capo added that school districts already have a process for addressing parental concerns over materials, but they are using that process to attack districts on all levels. As an example, Capo noted that a parent objecting to illustrations in a book in Keller ISD brought the book to the district’s attention, and the one copy at one high school was pulled immediately. That didn’t stop the parent from continuing to attack the district and its teachers on other issues by claiming that “leftist teachers, librarians, and counselors” were trying to indoctrinate students with critical race theory—even throwing in the well-established discipline of social and emotional learning.

Randi Weingarten stands at podium next to large scree with critical race theory headlines

In a video this summer, AFT President Randi Weingarten states the obvious fact that critical race theory (CRT) is a college-level topic mainly examined in law school and other advanced courses. “But culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism, or discrimination as CRT to try to make it toxic,” Weingarten said. “They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.”

Tuesday election results


Nine percent of registered Texas voters took to the polls to pass eight proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including barring the state from limiting religious services during pandemics and another changing eligibility requirements for judges.

Voters in Austin soundly defeated Proposition A, which would have mandated spending on the police department (to the detriment of libraries and fire departments). In Harris County, educator-endorsed candidates in Cy-Fair came up short against opponents that radicalized voters with mythical claims about critical race theory—while in Houston ISD, three educator-endorsed incumbents will go to December runoffs as they attempt to fight off corporate-backed challengers railing against mask mandates. Aldine AFT and Alief AFT were successful in electing educator-endorsed candidates to their school boards.

Educators in San Antonio supported Frank Ramirez in a bid to replace retiring state representative Leo Pacheco in House District 118. Ramirez lost to former firefighter John Lujan by less than 2% in an election with a
complicated voting process.

In Brief

DOJ sues Texas over voter suppression law
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Texas for the passage of SB 1, the voter suppression law passed in the second special session this summer. Federal officials are aiming to stop provisions that invalidate mail-in ballots and limit assistance given to voters, particularly help with translation. In early September, Texas AFT and several other organizations also filed a lawsuit to halt the law.

Expanded pre-K and healthcare included in new Build Back Better plan

This week, the Biden administration launched a new framework for its Build Back Better plan that will focus on assistance to Americans for childcare, healthcare, clean energy, and the continuation of expanded child tax credits.

Woman and child in grocery with shopping cart looking at fruits and vegtables

On the education front, the plan includes funding for universal pre-K for all children ages three and four. The administration said it has the backing of all its party members in Congress, ensuring widespread support for legislation to be drafted for the plan. Visit the Build Back Better website here and get connected to your representative in Congress to support the plan here.

Drowning in student debt? Sign up with Summer

AFT’s landmark legal victory has opened up a new pathway to erasing educators’ student loan debt. As an AFT member, you are eligible for help to navigate the process with Summer, an organization specializing in reducing student loan debt.

What you need to do now to get help from the AFT: