Oct. 20, 2023: Power in Solidarity

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

Friday, October 20, 2023

Shoulder to Shoulder

There is a reason so many people in power want you to believe unionizing in Texas is illegal. (It’s not.) There is a reason they want you to think there are no unions for teachers and school staff. (There are. We are one.)

The reason is simple: there is real power in solidarity, and if you knew that, you might want to use that power. 

We’ve gotten a wonderful reminder of that power in this third special session, courtesy of our union siblings in the Texas State Building & Construction Trades Council. Over the past few months, Texas AFT and our local unions have supported several plumbers and construction workers in getting certified to substitute teach in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. 

The goal? Freeing up our members teaching in the classroom to testify and advocate against vouchers in the Texas Capitol. You can read about our work together in this recent NPR story, but we’ll give the last word right now to Thomas Kennedy, the executive director for the TSBCTC: 

A plumber and product of public schools, Kennedy said he felt his union needed to show solidarity with teachers. He pitched the substitute-teacher idea to the union.

“I think that our public schools have a lot to offer,” he said. “I think that we’ve been shortchanging our public schools, and it’s disheartening when I talk to teachers about how hard they have it.”

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • We have more news from the Legislature’s voucher special session, including an insulting carrot from Gov. Abbott …

  • Learn more about the Fully Fund Our Future Act, the new bill from anti-voucher legislators that addresses real issues. 

  • Early voting starts next week! It’s time to turn out the vote for a TRS retiree COLA and more!

  • Check your calendar: We have several upcoming events dedicated to fighting back against vouchers, GOTV efforts for Proposition 9, and training to help you thrive as an educator.

— Texas Legislature

Special Session Update: Gov. Abbott Dangles Carrot, Educators Say ‘No Deal’

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

Late last week, just hours after the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 1, the latest iteration of that chamber’s voucher bill, Gov. Greg Abbott stated that he would only add teacher raises and public school funding to the special session call if the Legislature passes his voucher scheme. Abbott specifically said that teacher raises would be a “carrot” to ensure voucher legislation gets passed. 

Abbott made these comments at an event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a well-funded, anti-public education interest group that has had a clear and increasing influence on Abbott’s policy-making decisions.

That the governor would tie public education funding increases to a voucher scam, which would decrease public education funding in the long run, is a clear indication that Abbott is not serious about supporting public schools.

Thanks to projections from Every Texan, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank, we know exactly how much a voucher would cost our neighborhood schools: if just 5% of Texas students used the voucher in SB 1, public school districts across Texas would collectively lose over $2.2 billion in just one year. 

This is why our members continue to state loudly and clearly that no deal on vouchers is acceptable.

— Texas Legislature

Anti-Voucher Legislators Double Down on Public Education Funding

This Thursday, in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s calls to defund public education through voucher schemes, members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus (HDC) announced a proposal that would fund Texas schools. 

Titled the “Fully Fund Our Future Act,” the plan would increase public education funding by $40 billion. Texas ranks 43rd in the nation for per-student funding, and the $40 billion increase would increase Texas’ per-student funding to match the national average.

Authored by Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), who co-chairs the HDC’s Special Committee on Education with Rep. James Talarico (D-Austin), House Bill 177 would make transformative improvements to the public education funding system in Texas.

HB 177 would provide:


  • a $15,000 raise for full-time teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses, effective for the current school year;

  • a $5,500 raise for all other public school employees who aren’t administrators or paid more than $100,000 a year;

  • a $2,787 increase to per-student funding in the basic allotment starting next school year;

  • An automatic yearly increase to the basic allotment tied to inflation, beginning in the 2025-2026 school year;

  • additional state resources to erase the gap in school security and special education funding; and

  • an $800 per student one-time grant to address pandemic related learning loss.


With these funds, school districts would be able to not only fully fund the mandates currently imposed by the Legislature, but districts could also adequately compensate educators and support staff, reduce class sizes, and improve all employee working conditions.

— Call to Action

Image reads: Republican house members who oppose vouchers.

Send a letter: Stand strong for public schools! No deal on vouchers!

We need our public education allies on both sides of the aisle to hold firm against vouchers, and that means they need to hear from us MORE than big-money voucher lobbyists. Send a letter today to 24 anti-voucher House Republicans, as well as members of the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity & Enrichment.

Image reads: Unpacking the 88th legislature.

Unpacking the 88th Legislature: Special Session Edition

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m. CT

Get event details & RSVP online

A third special session on taxpayer-funded vouchers is underway. Join us Wednesday on Zoom to unpack the first week of this session, find out how you can fight back against vouchers, and help us fight forward, together, for fully funded public schools.

— Elections

Early voting starts Monday. Have you made your plan to vote?

Early voting starts Monday, Oct. 23, across Texas for the Nov. 7 election. 

Next week through Friday, Nov. 3, you have the opportunity to cast your vote for various important measures that will shape the future of your community and state.

Statewide Measures

Texans everywhere will vote on 14 proposed constitutional amendments. Last week, we shared our union’s voting recommendations on those amendments, and we encourage you to pay particular attention to Proposition 9, which would provide a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators. 

Local Issues

Make sure to research what will be on your ballot before you head to the polls. In many communities, there are unique items for voters to weigh in on – like bond elections and Voter Approval Tax Rate Elections (VATRE), all of which have profound implications for your community’s public schools. 

Aldine ISD and Cy-Fair ISD, for example, have school board elections, and our local unions in both districts have endorsed candidates. Voters in Round Rock ISD, meanwhile, actually have the opportunity to approve pay raises for school employees with Proposition A on their ballots. 

Your vote is your voice. Use it during this early voting period to support public education and public educators across the great state of Texas.

— Event

Kick Off Early Voting with Texas AFT Retiree Plus, Pro-COLA Legislators

Image reads: educators need relief.

Retired educators across Texas will kick off the first day of early voting for Proposition 9 with a Zoom meeting this Monday at 6 p.m. CT. Retirees will be texting their peers to encourage them to vote for Proposition 9 and will be joined by Sen. José Menéndez and Rep. Josey Garcia for a brief panel discussion. 

Both San Antonio legislators voted in support of the TRS COLA during the regular legislative session and both have been outspoken advocates for more significant and future relief for retired educators in Texas. 

Last week, our retirees sent over 15,000 text messages to voters across Texas. This week, we hope to double that amount. Sign up for the Monday campaign call and find other opportunities to GOTV for Prop 9!

— Privatization

Mothers for Democracy Institute Presents: The Voucher Scam Podcast

Looking for a way to engage your colleagues, friends, or family members in the voucher fight? We recommend a new podcast, The Voucher Scam, from the Mothers for Democracy Institute. 

Listen in as co-hosts Claire Campos-O’Neal and Nichole Abshire take a deep dive into the specifics of taxpayer-funded vouchers and the negative effects they have on public education. In this “exposé on one of the most critical issues facing public education today,” Campos-O’Neal and Abshire, also co-hosts of the Behind the Ballot podcast, frame this complex issue in an easy-to-understand way.

We encourage you to listen as these talented storytellers (and Texas moms) shed light on the lies being fed to the public surrounding vouchers, and how we can use our voices to preserve Texas’ public education system.

— Event

Image reads: houston area public education legislative town hall.

Houston Public Education Town Hall

Saturday, Oct. 21

5-6 p.m. CT

Register to Attend

Houston-area educators, school staff, parents, and students are invited to a public education town hall with legislators, hosted by Texas AFT and Cy-Fair AFT. 

We will be joined in discussion by Rep. Jon Rosenthal (House District 135) and Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (House District 148). Bring your questions about the state of public education in your districts and vouchers in the Legislature. 

Bring your appetites too: Tacos and nachos will be served!

— Event

Image reads: Regional leadership conference.

Texas AFT Bridges Institute Regional Leadership Conferences

Register today to attend our union’s most exciting biennial conference, providing both worksite leader and professional development workshops. 

  • Dallas: Saturday, Oct. 28

  • Houston: Saturday, Feb. 10

  • Rio Grande Valley: Saturday, Feb. 24

It’s time to thrive. Sign up for an RLC near you to get the tools you need to make it happen.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Inside Texas’ explosion of uncertified new teachers filling shortages. The number of Texas children in classrooms led by teachers without a state certification is skyrocketing. Roughly 1 in 3 new teachers hired across Texas last year were uncertified, meaning the state has no way to know if they received rigorous training. That’s up from 12% in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 15) 

📖 Superintendent Mike Miles Has Big Plans for Houston ISD. A Five-Foot-Tall Retired Teacher Stands in His Way. Ruth Kravetz, a 60-year-old math teacher and administrator, is the executive director of Community Voices for Public Education (CVPE), a coalition of parents and teachers dedicated to ousting Mike Miles, the state-appointed superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. In addition to collecting more than 7,500 signatures calling for Miles to be fired, the group has organized protests, interrupted board meetings, and held block walks to spread awareness of Miles’s changes. (Texas Monthly, Oct. 13) 

📖 Lufkin ISD Educators Testify at Senate Hearing. Senate Bill 1, also known as the voucher bill, will create an education savings account that would give families access to $8,000 to pay for private schools. Lufkin educator Denise Davis says the bill could end up hurting Texas public schools, which are funded based on student attendance. “I don’t think that it’s fair for the state to take funding and give it to private institutions when our public institutions need it. Just Lufkin, it would take over $2 million away from Lufkin if 5% of the students left,” said Davis. (KTRE, Oct. 13) 

📖 Coastal Bend school leaders band together against tide of ‘assault’ on public education. About 20 school administrators and school board members met at a downtown Corpus Christi bar patio last week, banding together out of concern for the future of public education in Texas.  Far from a networking or casual after-work get together, the gathering was a rallying meeting for a new educational advocacy group, the Coastal Bend Public Education Advocacy Network, born from fears that public schools are under attack. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Oct. 12)