Oct. 6, 2023: Forced Failures

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

Friday, October 6, 2023

Drawing of a closed down school with a sign that reads:

Illustration by Sierra Wiggers

Abbott’s Elementary

Some headlines really do say it all: 

Welcome to Abbott’s Elementary, the long-running program that millions are forced to experience each week. Unlike the popular ABC show, Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration of our public schools hasn’t earned any Emmy nominations. But it has produced more than its share of eye-popping statistics: 

We have the ninth-largest economy in the world, but only the 28th “best” public school system in the nation, when considering performance, funding, safety, class size, and instructor credentials. 

When the governor tries to shift blame away from himself — to attack public schools as ineffective or, alternately, highly effective centers of “radical indoctrination” — remember that this is the public education system he has built. 

It’s Gov. Abbott’s Texas Education Agency that oversees our public schools. It’s Gov. Abbott’s appointed education commissioner who installed a superintendent in the state’s largest school district who has made a special education shortage worse. It’s Gov. Abbott’s state government that has squandered a $32.7 billion surplus by failing to provide pay raises for teachers and staff

This is Abbott’s Elementary. Don’t let him forget it. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • The long-anticipated special session on vouchers begins Monday. We tell you all that we know. 

  • Two events for your calendar: This Saturday, we rally at the Capitol. On Wednesday, we regroup on Zoom. 

  • Don’t think there’s anything important on your ballot this November? Think again. 

  • Is your district voting on whether to implement the new chaplains-as-counselors law? Check out this toolkit.

— Event

Boot Vouchers Rally

Saturday, Oct. 7, noon CT

Get event details & RSVP online

Texas AFT is proud to join with fellow educators, parents, grandparents, students, and community allies, at the Texas Capitol for a rally to Boot Vouchers and support funding our neighborhood public schools!

— Texas Legislature

Public Education on the Line as Legislature Set to Convene for 3rd Special Session

Image reads: News from the 88th legislative session.

For at least the past four months, we’ve known a special session was coming. We’ve known that the fate of public schools will hang in the balance. We’ve known that the governor will use every dirty trick in the book to intimidate, threaten, and coerce legislators into passing a universal voucher bill that would scam Texas taxpayers out of millions of dollars while further privatizing and defunding local public schools. 

Last week, we learned that special session will begin Monday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. This week we learned what will be on the agenda when the governor released his formal proclamation Thursday: 

  • “Education Freedom”: Legislation providing education savings accounts for all Texas schoolchildren.

  • “Border Security”: Legislation to do more to reduce illegal immigration by creating a criminal offense for illegal entry into this state from a foreign nation and authorizing all licensed peace officers to remove illegal immigrants from Texas.

    • Legislation to impede illegal entry into Texas by increasing the penalties for criminal conduct involving the smuggling of persons or the operation of a stash house.

    • Legislation to impede illegal entry into Texas by providing more funding for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure.

  • “Public Safety”: Legislation concerning public safety, security, environmental quality, and property ownership in areas like the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, Texas.

  • “Ending COVID Restrictions”: Legislation prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers.

— Event

Unpacking the 88th Legislature: Special Session Edition

With special guest Rep. Abel Herrero 

Wednesday, Oct. 11, 6 p.m. CT

Get event details & RSVP online

A special session on taxpayer-funded vouchers is set to begin Monday, Oct. 9. 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. We’ll be joined by Rep. Abel Herrero, the author of the Herrero Amendment to the state budget that would have barred taxpayer money being spent on vouchers!

— Elections

What’s on your ballot this November?

It’s that time of the year once again — November election season! 

Next month, you will have an opportunity to cast your vote on a number of important measures that will shape the future of your community and our state.

On Nov. 7, Texans everywhere will vote on 14 proposed constitutional amendments, ranging from a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers to property tax relief. In some places, there will also be unique items for voters to weigh in on like bond elections, school board elections, and Voter Approval Tax Rate Elections (VATRE), all which have profound implications for your community’s public schools.

Make sure you are registered to vote by the Oct. 10 deadline. You can check your voter registration status, download a voter registration form, or change your name or address on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

In next week’s Hotline, we’ll take an in-depth look at the 14 proposed constitutional amendments. But this week, we want to remind you that even though statewide offices aren’t on your ballot this year, Texas voters like you have a lot to decide at the polls by looking at some important local elections. 

— Resources

Texas Freedom Network Resource Kit Will Help You Organize Against Chaplain Policy

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.

Our friends at Texas Freedom Network have now 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, by contacting school board members, speaking at school board meetings, contacting local media, starting a petition, or organizing protests and rallies. All these possible actions are covered in extensive detail in the toolkit and have step-by-step guides on how to do it effectively. 

The most promising organizing will happen at the local level to prevent this bill from going into effect in your school district, so taking action as a community is essential. 

Sign up to get your copy of TFN’s comprehensive toolkit to organize and fight SB 763 at tfn.org/txchaplain.

— Giveaway

Long-time corporate supporter, Horace Mann, wants to help make your classroom wish list come true with their latest giveaway!


Enter your DonorsChoose project in their $25,000 DonorsChoose Sweepstakes for a chance to have it fully funded. Horace Mann will draw winners and fund up to $5,000 in DonorsChoose projects every Thursday through Oct. 19! Enter your project between Sept. 14 – Oct. 19 for a chance to win. The first winners will be drawn Sept. 21.

New to DonorsChoose? Don’t let that stop you.

Check out this article to learn about the crowdfunding organization helping teachers find funding for classroom materials, posting your own projects and tips for making it a success.


You want the best for your students – and we’re here to help you make it happen.

DonorsChoose is not an affiliate of Horace Mann.

No purchase necessary to enter or win. Must be at least 18 years of age to enter. Not valid in Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming and where otherwise prohibited by law. See link for Official Rules.

Horace Mann and its affiliates enter into agreements with educational associations pursuant to which Horace Mann or its affiliate pays the educational association to provide various services that are aimed at familiarizing the association’s members with the Horace Mann brand, products or services. For more information or to ask questions about your educational association’s services agreement, please email your inquiry to association.relations@horacemann.com.

EMX-00157 (Sep. 23)

Recommended Reading

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

📖 School vouchers are bad for business, bad for Texas and, most of all, bad for schools. Some parents may want their children to learn that Christianity is the only true religion, that African Americans benefited from slavery, or that LGBTQ people are perverts, but most Texans do not want taxpayer dollars paying for such indoctrination. Neither should business leaders, who constantly complain about schools and colleges not producing enough skilled workers. (Houston Chronicle, Sept. 22) 

📖 Dallas ISD superintendent says changes to school accountability ratings are political and designed to make public schools look bad. The Texas Education Agency wants to change how it grades public schools across Texas in its A–F accountability system. But dozens of districts are fighting back with a lawsuit. Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde says she thinks the upcoming special session in October has everything to do with the TEA’s timing. (WFAA, Oct. 1) 

🎧 Grapevine podcast. Two years after conservative activists turned critical race theory into a right-wing rallying cry, the political fight has shifted. The team behind the Peabody Award-winning podcast Southlake tells the story of one family broken apart in the midst of a new anti-LGBTQ culture war, and the high school English teacher caught in the middle. (NBC News, Oct. 4)