Sept. 22, 2023: Nothing About Us Without Us

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

Friday, September 22, 2023

Texas AFT Retiree Plus members at the Texas Tribune Festival on Thursday, engaging in conversations with members of the media, Texas voters, and elected officials like Rep. Vikki Goodwin.

Nothing About Us Without Us

This week, we’re at the Texas Tribune Festival in downtown Austin. While we’re excited to hear from elected leaders, policy experts, and journalists from across Texas and the nation, we’re not there just to listen. We’re at TribFest to be heard. 

Texas AFT Retiree Plus members have been canvassing between sessions, sharing their stories, and urging Texans to vote for Proposition 9 and the first TRS COLA in two decades this November.

They’ll be out on Congress Avenue tomorrow doing the same — because activists never retire. 

Texas AFT is sponsoring several panels: on curriculum and private school vouchers, as well as a remarkable conversation with labor legend Dolores Huerta. We’ve done this because we want to listen and learn, of course. But more importantly, we deserve to be at the table where important decisions about our profession are being discussed. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Our latest survey of educators reveals remarkable unanimity on vouchers: Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike are worried about the defunding of their public schools.
  • In a week that featured Gov. Abbott’s appearance on a religiously tinged tele town hall on school privatization, we dig further into the organization who hosted him: Texas Public Policy Foundation. 
  • The rebellion of cash-strapped school districts continues, with at least one district telling the state it cannot and will not send in its recapture payment. 
  • Plus: Paxton’s acquittal, a big win on book bans, and TRS and SBEC board updates.

— Survey

Survey Says: Educators Opposed to Governor’s Voucher Ambitions

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott appeared on a tele town hall event with the right-wing advocacy group Texas Public Policy Foundation, during which he confirmed he would call at least one special session — and possibly more — on “school choice” in October.  

In his remarks, Abbott professed that he has seen a “hunger” for private school vouchers in his travels across the state. That’s of little surprise, as his barnstorming tour focused almost exclusively on visits to private religious schools.

The results from Texas AFT’s most recent survey on legislative topics once again say otherwise. Among the 3,452 K-12 and higher education employees who responded to the survey, the response on vouchers is nearly unanimous in the opposite direction: 89% of Texas K-12 public school employees say they’re concerned that private school vouchers and expanded taxpayer funding for charter schools will hurt their public schools.

Most tellingly, that number cuts across partisan divides.

— 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!

— Privatization

Unmasking Vouchers: Texas Public Policy Foundation

Last week, we explored the dark money funding the Texas Federation for Children in our ongoing series unmasking the forces pushing private school vouchers in Texas. 


There were multiple connections between the Texas Federation for Children and the current and former board members of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a well-known conservative think-tank and policy advocacy organization active in the Texas Legislature.


And the organization is flexing its political muscles again this week for the cause of privatization. 


During a phone call hosted by TPPF on Tuesday, Sept. 19, with Gov. Greg Abbott and right-wing Christian “faith leaders,” the governor reminded Texans about the real agenda behind “school choice” and the central role being played by organizations like TPPF.


Abbott reiterated his usual pro-voucher talking points and included some heightened Christian nationalist rhetoric. His remarks followed the familiar playbook of running a false smear campaign against public schools, accusing educators and public schools of “indoctrinating” students, and then capitalizing on the manufactured dissatisfaction by providing “alternatives” for families in the form of privatization and vouchers.

Who’s involved in TPPF’s privatization lobbying, and how do they fit into the web of dark money we’ve been tracking? Read more on our website.

— Privatization

Spring Branch ISD Trustees Withhold Recapture Payment to State

Spring Branch ISD has taken a stand against the state’s chronic underfunding of our public schools; this month, its school board voted unanimously to withhold the recapture payment the state requires of property-wealthy school districts. While this move could result in state penalties, Spring Branch ISD officials have made a compelling case for why their district and others should not be sending money to the state when it has a $33 billion surplus and provided no new money for schools in the last regular legislative session. 

Initially, recapture, sometimes called “Robin Hood,” was intended to recapture local revenue collected by local school districts that exceeds a certain level, set in state law. Those dollars collected by the state from these wealthy districts were supposed to be sent to lower-income school districts to supplement their insufficient funding, increasing equity statewide. 

That, however, isn’t the situation we find ourselves in today. When it comes to the $4 billion in recaptured ISD funds each year, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: unfettered expansion of privately run charter schools.

— Texas Legislature

Paxton Acquittal Sparks Renewed Hostilities between House, Senate

This past weekend, the Texas Senate voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment brought against him by the Texas House. Only two of 19 Republicans in the Senate voted to impeach Paxton on any of the articles. All 12 Democrats voted to impeach Paxton on at least 14 of the 16 articles. 21 votes were required for impeachment.

After the trial ended and the gag order prohibiting public comment from senators was lifted, several Republican senators and the lieutenant governor himself attacked the impeachment process in the Texas House. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went as far as calling for an official audit of the House proceedings and retweeted a post from former President Donald Trump calling on Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign. Phelan responded to these attacks and to Paxton’s acquittal with his own public statement accusing Patrick of orchestrating the outcome of the trial and putting his hand on the scales in favor of Paxton.

As the Legislature prepares for a third special session to address taxpayer-funded vouchers, this open, our minds turn to how this mutual resentment between the leaders of both chambers may color the negotiations …

— Teacher Retirement System

TRS Board Discusses One-Time Stipend Payments, TRS Health Fairs

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees convened in Austin last week for its quarterly meeting. On the agenda were two major agenda items: 

  1. The disbursal of one-time stipend checks for retirees 70 and older, another component of Senate Bill 10 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which also includes the TRS cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for certain annuitants. 
  2. Upcoming TRS Health Fairs with more information about TRS-Care plans.

— Book Banning

HB 900, Book Bans Get the Boot in Scathing Court Opinion

On Aug. 31, Texas Judge Alan D. Albright issued a temporary injunction against House Bill 900. Known as The READER Act by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), HB 900 is merely the latest in a series of attempts by the Legislature to ban books and control what types of books our students can access.

On Tuesday, the judge issued his written opinion fully blocking the implementation of the bill. Specifically, Albright found that the rating system called for in the bill, which would require vendors to label books as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” without properly defining the criteria to do so, places an undue and unsustainable burden on publishers/sellers seeking to supply library materials to the state and its many public school campuses. 

The state has already announced it will appeal the ruling, but this is a significant victory. We have more on what Judge Albright said, as well as what you need to know in your district right now on our website.

— State Board for Educator Certification

Preview: SBEC Meets Next Week in Austin

The State Board for Educator Certification will meet next Friday, Sept. 29, in Austin. Texas AFT is carefully watching three items on the board’s agenda: 

  1. Educator Preparation Programs
  2. Effective Preparation Framework
  3. Educator Certification

We have more on what to expect next week on our website.

— Hispanic Heritage Month

Texas AFT Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15, 2023) is an important time to highlight the contributions of the Hispanic world to history, music, art, literature, and public education. 

We believe to #TeachTheTruth, we must recognize and lift up the contributions of the wonderfully diverse population of our state, our country, and our world. This month, we’ll highlight remarkable Latino and Hispanic educators that we’re proud to call members, along with opportunities to bring the occasion into the classroom.

Hispanic Heritage Month Lesson Plans

Hispanic Heritage Month is more than a celebration of Hispanic and Latino culture. It’s an opportunity to educate, to connect, and to cultivate understanding. Want to bring National Hispanic Heritage Month into the classroom? Check out the free lesson plans and resources available to AFT members through Share My Lesson.

Member Spotlight: Dr. Rebecca Palacios

Dr. Rebecca A. Palacios is a National Teacher Hall of Fame inductee, National Board Certified Teacher, and leading expert in early childhood education. With over four decades of experience, she is a pioneer in the field of dual-language learning and specializes in curriculum planning and instructional design.  Read more online.

El Paso: Reading Opens the World

This week, El Paso AFT co-hosted a literacy fair with El Paso ISD at Magoffin Middle School. Together, with AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus, our local union gave away 40,000 bilingual and bicultural books to families. The event was the latest in AFT’s nationwide Reading Opens the World initiative.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Rice marching band mocks Houston ISD superintendent with Austin Powers-inspired halftime show. Rice University’s marching band mocked state-appointed Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles during the halftime show at Saturday’s football game against Texas Southern University. The band performed a brief “Austin Powers”-themed show characterizing Miles as Dr. Evil — the main antagonist of the popular movie series. (Houston Chronicle, Sept. 18) 

📖 Commentary: Keep teachers with preparation and pay. Teacher vacancies directly affect the quality of education our students receive. The solution is simple math: Preparation plus pay equals teachers who stay. Of course, this solution does come with some challenges, but it will result in more teachers who persist in the profession. It’s time for Texas to take action and solve this equation to secure a brighter future for Texas education. (San Antonio Express-News, Sept. 19)  

📖 TEA-appointed Houston ISD board allows teachers to be terminated if schools close, seeks exemption from state laws. The state-appointed leaders of Houston’s public school system say they can’t comply with a new law requiring police officers at every campus, and they’re seeking exemptions for that and other state laws. During the Thursday board meeting, they also geared up for expected school closures in the coming years by approving a policy that allows staffers from those schools to be terminated. (Houston Public Media, Sept. 15)