Sept. 18: TRS retirement stats; RSVP for a workshop on safety rights; TEA releases COVID-19 stats; And much more #txed news!

 

You can find all news, updates and resources addressing COVID-19 here on our website.


TEA publishes first run of data in COVID-19 cases for Texas school campuses

state Covid graph

This week the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released on its website data collected in collaboration with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on statewide COVID-19 cases among public school students and staff who have returned to campuses for in-person instruction. These numbers show that since the state began counting in August, 2,344 student cases and 2,175 staff cases have been reported.

While these numbers are concerning in and of themselves, it is more disturbing that this week’s data provides no indication of where those cases are located. The TEA has announced that next week’s data release will provide tallies of COVID-19 cases by district, but in large districts with many schools, even this data is not specific enough for teachers and parents to accurately understand their risk-level. While the TEA reports that the data collected will be used to make public health decisions, stakeholders in the public school system need this data in order to make personal health decisions.

Texas AFT’s recently released COVID-19 tracker seeks to make up for the imprecision of the TEA’s data. Our tracker will release data on case numbers at your specific school, which are reported anonymously and confirmed by Texas AFT. Visit StopTheSpreadTX.school to search for reports of COVID-19 cases on specific campuses and in other district facilities, and to anonymously report cases in your own school district.

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TRS reports lower than usual retirements this year, but whether the pandemic will increase that number might not be known for months

 

TRS Building SignThe Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees heard a staff report this week that retirements for this year are still below what they were at this time last year. However, the agency has seen a jump in the number of requests from members wanting to review retirement options—94,412 requests for retirement estimates for the 2020 fiscal year compared to 91,213 in the 2019 fiscal year. This breaks down to nearly 400 requests for retirement estimates per week.

Given the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, many had expected the number of retirements to go up significantly this year, and they still could. Chief Benefits Officer Barbie Pearson clarified that when considering the discrepancy between the low number of retirements and the high number of retirement estimate requests, it is important to keep in mind that there can be a two to twelve month lag in reporting from when an employee leaves the classroom to when the employee is officially counted as retired by TRS. The timeline is determined by when the employee submits their final paperwork and receives their first annuity payment. Teachers leaving or retiring from the classroom now may not be added to the TRS retirements payroll data for months.

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Join us Wednesday for our fourth Know Your Rights/Power workshop

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WORKSHOP BANNER

In these uncertain and frightening times, Texas AFT understands the real concerns educators and school employees have about speaking out. But when it comes to the health and safety of our schools, your voice has never been more necessary or important.

It’s important to understand your district’s reopening plan and the safety protocols it outlines. Getting adequate PPE supplies and maintaining a safe workplace, though, will require you to be proactive. In our next live #KnowYourRights broadcast, we’ll show you how to organize for safety.

Texas AFT COVID-19 Know Your Rights Workshop
Wednesday, Sept. 23, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Facebook Live | www.fb.com/TexasAFT

Panelists include:

  • Zeph Capo, Texas AFT President
  • Patty Quinzi, Texas AFT Legislative Legal Counsel
  • Trudy Hilty, Vice-President of Nurses for the Houston Federation of Teachers

RSVP today to receive important updates and follow-up information from the event. This event is open to the public and is intended to provide an overview of the rights Texas public school employees have under law.

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Misguided, test-driven Teacher Incentive Allotment will benefit less than 1% of Texas teachers

TIA LogoThis week, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced the names of the first 26 school districts approved for a Local Designation System as part of the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA), which was a part of HB 3, passed in 2019. Although the TIA has been touted as a way to pay the supposedly “best” teachers more money to retain them, while also offering some stipends for them to work at low-performing campuses to raise test scores, there are significant flaws and the TIA should not be seen as any kind of solution to the state’s history of underpaying educators.

The TIA system identifies the “best” teachers, in large part, by the results of their students’ STAAR test scores. The 26 participating districts, about half of them charter schools, had to first be approved by TEA, and the approved plans are seen to be very heavily reliant on standardized testing. This unsustainable TIA program will only apply to 3,650 teachers who teach in these approved districts, benefitting less than 1% of Texas teachers.

 

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Steps to prepare for the November election

Election BannerThe most important election of our lifetime takes place Tuesday, Nov. 3—less than 50 days from today. The first day of early in-person voting is on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Here are several steps to think about:

Step 1: Make sure you are registered. For those of us who never miss an election that seems like a foregone conclusion, but to be certain, go to this website: https://register2vote.org. If you are registered, it will tell you so; if you are not, it will walk you through obtaining a registration form to make sure you are registered by the deadline of Monday, Oct. 5.

Step 2: Prepare to vote in every election up and down the ballot. The Legislature ended straight-ticket voting, starting with the Nov. 3 election, so it will no longer be possible to cast your ballot for all candidates of your political party with one check mark. You will need to vote separately in federal races, statewide races, legislative races and local races. Politics affects almost every part of an educator’s life at work, so prepare your decision in every contest. Check out the Texas AFT endorsements for statewide, congressional and legislative races here.

Step 3: If you are eligible to vote by mail and decide to take that route, request your ballot from your county election official now, if you have not done so already. Deadline for requesting a ballot is Friday, Oct. 23. You can check eligibility requirements here. Mail your ballot back as soon as possible. The sooner you send your ballot in, the safer it will be ahead of a deadline for receipt of 5 p.m. Nov. 4 (the postmark deadline is 7 p.m. Nov. 3). If you cannot or choose not to vote by mail, go to Step 4.

Step 4: Vote in person at early polling places, from Tuesday, Oct. 13 until Friday, Oct. 30. Turnout in the 2020 election is expected to be extraordinarily high, so the earlier you vote, the less likely you will have to wait hours in line—something that seems to happen in every major election in large cities. For in-person voting, you will need a Voter ID, such as a driver’s license. Don’t have a driver’s license? Check out the other forms of ID you can use to vote with in Texas. Once again, the sooner, the better, but if you choose not to vote early, go to Step 5.

Step 5: Vote on Election Day, when the hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you are in line by 7 p.m., you will be permitted to cast a ballot, no matter how long it takes to get to your turn.

Step 6: Celebrate a pro-public education majority in the Texas House!

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Help our members impacted by devastating wildfires

From AFT President Randi Weingarten:

This week, I had a Zoom call with some AFT leaders in Oregon. The stories they told me broke my heart.

Entire towns have been burned to the ground, people are fleeing, the sky is full of smoke, and all of this is happening during a health pandemic, where it’s dangerous to seek refuge with other people. These are the worst fires in generations, maybe ever. We’re opening up our Disaster Relief Fund to help make sure that the school bus drivers, teachers, school cafeteria workers, college faculty, graduate workers, other school staff and nurses who are directly impacted by the fires have support from us.

You can give directly to the fund, and 100 percent of the money will go to disaster relief. Help us help these people in crisis.

One of our members said, “This is like Armageddon,” and then went on to talk about how this doesn’t just affect her, but her students. In the middle of the crisis, she was thinking about how this is impacting her students. Another member said, “We don’t know how we’re going to survive this.” She described the devastation and the pain that she and so many others are going through.

We’ve sent N95 masks to OSEA to help, which should arrive tomorrow. And we’re working to make sure these school employees make it through this crisis.

I’m asking you to join me, step up and help these heroes. Donate here

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Join us for another great Town Hall with candidate Lorenzo Sanchez

Join us on Tuesday on Facebook for a great discussion on education policy, safe reopenings, and why we need more friends of public education in the Capitol. Texas AFT staff will be talking with Lorenzo Sanchez, who is running for Texas House District 67, which covers the Plano and Allen areas northeast of Dallas.


 

Protect Students GraphicOn Wednesdays, we wear red!

Turn your social media channels red each Wednesday in support of educators and students. Our goal is to show our numbers across platforms and to push local leaders and elected officials to show their support too.

While we’ve seen some districts and counties delay start dates for in-person instruction and move closer to our common sense plan for safe school reopenings, there’s still work to do this back-to-school season.


 
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Texas American Federation of Teachers represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.