Oct. 27, 2023: Have you voted?

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

Friday, October 27, 2023

Have you voted?

Early voting continues 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 teachers. Our retired educators need pensions that have kept pace with growing inflation levels. 

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.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • No news on vouchers in our special session update, while the House debates contentious immigration bills.
  • Want to defend your right to #TeachTheTruth? Urge the State Board of Education to adopt honest science textbooks.
  • Seven of our local unions have won AFT Powerful Partnership Institute grants to provide #RealSolutionsForKids in their communities.
  • Your action is needed in the U.S. Senate to stop more charter school industry fraud and waste.

— Elections

Retired Educators Hit the Polls to Win First Pension COLA in Nearly 2 Decades

Retired Educators Need Relief. Vote Yes on COLA. Monday, November 6, 6 to 7 p-m on Zoom. With special guest U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez.

This week — the first week of early voting in Texas’ statewide constitutional elections — retired educators across Texas showed up at the polls in force in support of Proposition 9, which will provide some retired educators with their first pension cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Our Texas AFT Retiree Plus activists across the state are making calls, sending texts, and greeting voters at the polls to push Prop 9 across the finish line. 

But if we’re going to win this COLA, everyone needs to get out to vote — not just retirees. As of Thursday morning, across Texas, only 214,925 people have voted, a little over 1% of all registered voters across Texas.

This week, our Retiree Plus members sent 30,000 text messages to voters across Texas, which was more than double the 15,000 texts that we sent last week. They’ll keep going until Election Day — and you can help. 

At 6 p.m. CT on Monday, Nov. 6, the day before Election Day, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) will join us as a special guest for our virtual textbank. Gonzalez has sponsored multiple bills to address the WEP/GPO issue that curtails retired educators’ Social Security benefits.

— Texas Legislature

Vouchers at a Standstill Amid Immigration Debate

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

Late last Thursday, after weeks of almost no action from the House on vouchers, Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Killeen), chairman of the House Public Education Committee and the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment, quietly filed House Bill 1, a voucher bill that includes some limited public education funding increases.

Since it was filed, Buckley’s bill has been quietly gathering dust. Legislators on either side of the voucher debate seem thoroughly uninterested in Buckley’s voucher. Gov. Greg Abbott, the public ringleader of the astroturf campaign to bring taxpayer-funded vouchers to Texas, declared Buckley’s plan as “insufficient.” Additionally, none of Buckley’s House colleagues have signed on as co-authors or joint authors. HB 1 has not been scheduled for a committee hearing; as yet, it hasn’t even been referred to one. 

Instead, this week, the Texas House has been hotly debating several bills intended to undermine the authority of Texas business owners and U.S. immigration authorities.

— State Board of Education

SBOE Update: Last Call for Science Textbook Comments

Eyes on the Board

Readers of the Hotline will remember our State Board of Education preview and recap from last month in which Texas AFT joined the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and others to support the adoption of science textbooks that teach the truth about climate change and evolution, in addition to meeting other science standards. Since then, well-monied interest groups have been calling on climate deniers to flood the SBOE with demands to censor new science textbooks, specifically for Grade 8. 

The SBOE is set to vote on the adoption of these textbooks at its Nov. 14-17 meeting, so we must take action now to demand that the board reject these attempts to censor the truth. There are two main ways you can defend science education and help public schools teach the truth about climate change …

— Event

As part of AFT’s Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights Conference last weekend in Houston, our union siblings from across the country joined Houston Federation of Teachers members and Houston ISD parents in a picket outside HISD administrative offices. If you want to stay up to date on what’s happening with TEA’s reckless experiment in Houston, sign up for HFT’s weekly takeover newsletter.

— AFT News

7 Texas AFT Local Unions Win AFT Powerful Partnerships Institute Grants

While the Legislature largely ignores the struggle of Texas educators and students, our union is working to help our public schools thrive and exceed expectations. This week, at AFT’s Civil, Human, & Women’s Rights Conference in Houston, our national union’s Powerful Partnership Institute (PPI) awarded its latest round of grant funding, with the goal of offering vital assistance to AFT affiliates, parent groups, and community organizations engaged in grassroots work within local communities. 

Texas AFT was among those grant recipients, along with seven of our local unions. Read all about the projects and community partnerships on our website.

— U.S. Congress

Tell Sen. Cornyn: Do Not Support More Charter School Program Waste, Fraud

Tell Your Senator: Reform the Charter School Program. Don't Increase Waste and Fraud.

Eight U.S. senators (including Texas Sen. John Cornyn) introduced a bill last week that was clearly written with the help of the charter school lobby. The Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act would allow billionaire-funded nonprofits operating as “state entities” to keep more of a cut when dispersing Charter School Program (CSP) grants. The bill would also allow these “state entities” to award up to $100,000 to would-be charter entrepreneurs, including religious organizations, to pre-plan a charter school before they have even submitted an application to an authorizer.


Our partners at the Network for Public Education (NPE) urge you to send a letter to your senator to oppose the charter lobby’s bill today.

— Local Policy

School Chaplain Bill Update: School Districts Begin Voting on SB 763

From now until March 1, 2024, every Texas school district must decide whether to adopt a policy to allow chaplains to serve as counselors in public schools. Per SB 763, passed in the 88th Legislature, chaplains would operate as students’ first point of contact for mental health assistance, suicide prevention, and other behavioral health services with no requirements for training or certification. 

These votes are now starting to take place. 

Over the past month, Dallas ISD, Austin ISD, and Kerrville ISD have all voted no on adopting SB 763. Other districts in Texas have voted in favor of a resolution to allow school chaplains in their schools, including Round Rock ISD, Mineola ISD, and Georgetown ISD.

Our friends at Texas Freedom Network have created an SB 763 Resource Kit to help protect Texas students from this policy. The toolkit covers multiple advocacy avenues to empower parents and concerned citizens to get involved locally, which are all covered in extensive detail in the toolkit and have step-by-step guides on how to do it effectively.

— Event

This week, the American Federation of Teachers, The New Republic, and the African American Policy Forum are riding around Texas inside a “banned bookmobile” as part of a nationwide tour celebrating reading and the importance of ensuring that students have the freedom to read, educators and librarians have the freedom to teach, and authors have the freedom to write. 

The banned bookmobile made two stops at Dallas and Austin bookstores, and a third stop is planned Saturday in Houston. Aboard are over 5,000 free books (a mix of unbanned and banned), literacy tips and tools, professional development resources and information on how people can take action to keep books widely accessible for all parents, students and educators.

Recommended Reading

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

🎧 Teaching Texas: Live from Texas Tribune Fest! Since Teaching Texas wrapped last fall, the state has been embroiled in a debate over school vouchers, climate change education and district takeovers. But flying slightly under the radar – though equally consequential – is House Bill 1605. In a discussion recorded live at Texas Tribune Fest, Grace Lynch is joined by Rep. Gina Hinojosa and State Board of Education Chairman Keven Ellis to dive into how the bill re-allocates power, impacts teachers, and charts a new future for Texas public education. (Wonder Media Network, Oct. 6)

📖 Opinion: Say no to voucher cartels and yes to Texas public education. Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a special legislative session to deliver what he called “school choice for every Texas family.” A continued push for vouchers after decades of failed bills has become a Texas tradition, but it does not represent the desires of Texas families – it represents a billionaire voucher cartel that should concern every Texan. (El Paso Matters, Oct. 20)  

📖 Retired teachers count on Texas voters for first cost-of-living increase in years. Before retiring in 2014, Bob Gibbons spent his 32-year career teaching in the Austin, Round Rock and Alief school districts. He taught Spanish and said he enjoyed watching students learn a language. “Even on a bad day, I felt like I was doing something important everyday,” he said. Now, Gibbons is one of hundreds of thousands of retired school employees depending on Texas voters for the first cost-of-living adjustment to their pensions in years. (Texas Standard, Oct. 25)