Sept. 29: Choosing Sides

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

Friday, September 29, 2023

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo speaks at a Public Education Town Hall in San Antonio last weekend, with Rep. Josey Garcia, Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Sen. José Menéndez, and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer. Photo by Eli Melendrez.

Which side are you on?

In a week in which President Joe Biden made history by walking a picket line with striking United Auto Workers members (while former President Donald Trump visited a non-union auto parts facility), it feels appropriate to quote the great Pete Seeger: Which side are you on? 

But it’s not just about picking sides and making a choice at the national level. “Choice” is the word driving Texas politics at the moment, mostly as a handy euphemism for taxpayer-funded privatization of public education. 

At a Texas Tribune Festival discussion, co-sponsored by Texas AFT, Rep. James Talarico pointed out the inaccuracy of the phrase “school choice” in talking about school vouchers. 

“In fact, it’s the schools’ choice because private schools can deny admission for any reason they want,” Talarico told the crowd. “They can deny a kid because of academics. They can deny a kid because of behavior. They can deny a kid because their parent does not make enough money or for not being the right cultural fit.” 

When that’s the choice — between taxpayer-funded discrimination against students or the full funding of the public schools who accept every child — there can be no compromise. 

So for all the legislators on the fence about vouchers — or those who are willing to cut a deal — as a third special session draws near, remember that this state’s educators and public school families will be watching. And they’ll be taking note of which side you were on. 

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • Gov. Abbott’s quest for a voucher may begin again as soon as Oct. 9 with a third special session. 
  • The final installment of our Unmasking Vouchers series focuses on the Educational Equity PAC, a dark-money go-between organization for billionaire donations. 
  • President Joe Biden makes four important moves to support organized labor and public education. 
  • A case study in the “Starve, Shame, Shutter” playbook: San Antonio ISD proposes closing 19 schools.

— Texas Legislature

Rumors Swirling About Start Date for Voucher Special Session

This week, the Texas Legislature’s rumor mill went into overdrive, with reports that Gov. Greg Abbott’s long-threatened special session on school privatization will start somewhere between Oct. 9-11.

That start date has not been confirmed officially, nor has the official agenda for the special session. But the tea leaves are about as difficult to read as a billboard along I-35 …


Read the full article on our website for: 

  • what we’re hearing from the governor and legislators

  • new poll results that show — once again — that Texans don’t want taxpayer-funded vouchers

  • actions you can take right now in the fight for fully funded public schools

— 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: Educational Equity PAC

There is a coordinated and well-funded onslaught against public education and democracy happening in Texas and across the country.

A tidal wave of dark money is flowing into Texas with the specific purpose of undermining democracy by meddling in elections and privatizing our public schools. Here in Texas, billionaires from Texas and outside the state are flooding our politics with enormous amounts of money, using intermediary organizations to funnel campaign contributions to politicians of both political parties.

In this culmination of the Unmasking Voucher series, we will take a look at an organization that serves as a collector and distributor for billionaires’ donations: Educational Equity PAC, which counts the co-founder of Netflix among its top funders.

— Event

Image reads: Retired educators need relief. vote C-O-L-A yes.

Texas AFT Retiree Plus has kicked off its efforts to win a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retired educators at the ballot box this November. Retirees are fighting to pass Proposition 9, which will provide an increase to retired educators’ pensions. 

Educators who have been retired for nearly two decades have never seen a pension increase. Over that time, inflation has increased prices by over 65%.

Next Tuesday Oct. 3, we will convene via Zoom to get out the vote for Proposition 9 via text message. We will be joined by Nikki Cowart, president of Cy-Fair AFT, to discuss her efforts to support retiree activism and Cy-Fair AFT’s upcoming school board race, which will be on the ballot this November alongside Proposition 9.


Click here to RSVP for the event. And a reminder: The last day to register to vote in this election is Oct. 10.

— Underfunding

San Antonio ISD Targets 19 Schools for Closure

This press release from the San Antonio Alliance and other community stakeholders also outlines several positions the coalition considers vital to the process of deciding which schools should close 

Last week, San Antonio ISD officials announced their recommendation to close 19 campuses, a little under 20% of the district’s total schools. The schools targeted for closure are distributed across the district but are more highly concentrated in the city’s South and East sides. 

We bring this situation in San Antonio to your attention because it’s far from unique. Given the state’s chronic underfunding of public education — something that has not been addressed in the 88th Legislature — many school districts are at their financial breaking points. In San Antonio ISD, the issue has been compounded by rapid growth of privately run charter schools.

— Event

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. 

  • San Antonio: Saturday, Oct. 14
  • 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.

— National

Biden Makes History with a Series of Pro-Worker, Pro-Educator Moves

Image reads: Thank you, president biden.

Over the past two weeks, President Joe Biden has made history with a quartet of substantive announcements intended to support workers, educators, and our environment — even as the House of Representatives threatens to shut down the federal government.

Read the full article online for more on: 

  • Biden’s historic public support for UAW striking workers
  • The announcement of the first federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention
  • Funding for pollution-reducing school buses
  • The creation of the Civilian Climate Corps

— 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

EMX-00157 (Sep. 23)

— 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: Esmeralda Herrera-Teran

Esmeralda Herrera-Teran has served as director of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center since 2020. In that role, she has played a pivotal part in realizing the community engagement and social justice goals of the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers and its members.

Read more online.

Dolores Huerta at the Texas Tribune Festival

Texas AFT proudly sponsored a conversation between legendary labor activist Dolores Huerta and Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. We were even more excited that several of our members, including Education Austin’s Karen Reyes, were able to meet Huerta at the event.

Recommended Reading

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

📖 Rumors of closure spark third rally at HISD campus as parents consider options. Thomas Lopez and Spencer Smith were alarmed last week when their daughters, who typically earn straight As, brought home progress reports from Cage Elementary School with lackluster grades. But the parents said they do not blame the girls or their teachers, instead pointing to a flawed, standardized curriculum implemented this year in New Education System schools as the problem. (Houston Chronicle, Sept. 27) 

📖 Five ways to save on student debt. There is no denying the hardship that student loan payments present: Scraping together those payments every month is one more thing to worry about in a world already full of strife. And it’s hard not to resent having to borrow money to attend college in the first place — higher education should be accessible to everyone, without the “debt sentence” of student loans. AFT wants to help and is offering a number of ways to ease the burden of student debt. (AFT, Sept. 27) 

📖 ‘I’m exhausted from all the fighting’ | Austin ISD approves alternative plan, avoids state takeover. On Tuesday night, board members with Austin ISD voted 8-1 to approve a plan that will help prevent a state takeover. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposed putting the school district under a conservatorship in March, saying Austin ISD failed to properly evaluate students eligible for special education and didn’t provide them with proper resources. On Tuesday, the district received a final, negotiated proposal that includes adding a 10-day period to allow leaders to address areas of concern identified by the TEA. (KVUE, Sept. 26)