That’s probably because instead of clamoring for a voucher program no one wants, educators have different priorities for the state, like funding our schools to thrive. In the 2023 Charles Butt Foundation poll, Texas educators listed their spending priorities: increasing teacher salaries (96%), assisting students with mental health needs (86%), improving building security (83%).
When asked, educators say they want safe campuses, supplies to do their jobs (that they didn’t have to pay for), money to pay their bills, and a supportive environment for their students. It’s not exactly asking for a Utopia; it’s asking for what should be happening every day in our schools, right now.
Our recap of last week’s State Board of Education meeting, including the massive curriculum overhaul spurred by the passage of HB 1605.
We’ve got updates on more bad bills that went into effect Sept. 1 — and their various court challenges.
The trial of chronically indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton has finally begun.
Texas Teacher of the Year finalists have been announced, and a Corpus Christi AFT member is among them!
— State Board of Education
SBOE Recap: Buckle Up for a Long Haul
The State Board of Education (SBOE) met for its regular meeting Aug. 29-Sept. 1 with an unusually dense agenda.
Proclamation 2024 & Science Textbooks Adoption
Tuesday began with a public hearing on Proclamation 2024, which includes instructional materials for many career and technical education courses (CTE). But all eyes were on K-12 science materials. Most testifiers were in support of the proposed updated materials, and the majority of the TEKS were covered by the submitted materials.
Now for a collective sigh of relief: Science materials will be adopted and ready for districts to select and purchase in time for the 2024-2025 school year.
HB 1605 & Curriculum Review
Much of the later part of the day Tuesday was dedicated to a presentation from the Texas Education Agency on how its staff plans to develop the review mandated by HB 1605 of K-5 English and Spanish language arts and reading and K-12 mathematics on an aggressive timeline. Approving these materials will unlock some of the funding set out in the bill, but to do so, the SBOE has several major items to accomplish before April 2024.
Wednesday began as usual with comments from the commissioner of education. The main topic was the statewide STAAR results released in August. Members had several questions regarding how these results will factor into the forthcoming A-F accountability ratings. We know that special populations will be weighted differently in the calculations, but we will have to wait and assess the impacts when the ratings are published Sept. 28.
In a major blow to the integrity of the charter approval process, the board voted 11-3 to alter the “no-contact” rule that prevents new charter school applicants from lobbying SBOE members between the application deadline and approval vote. The vote highlights the influence that charter organizations and supporters have been able to wield in the boardroom via their large donations.
In some rare good news for school funding, the SBOE approved the distribution of $1.56 billion from the Permanent School Fund (PSF) to the Available School Fund (ASF) for Fiscal Year 2024. These funds will be added to the $600 million in previously approved direct contributions from oil and gas royalty revenues.
The combined amount of $2.16 billion will flow to school districts and charter schools, on a per-student basis, during this school year to support instructional materials, technology, and other educational expenses.
HB 900 & Censorship
On Thursday, the Committee on Instruction’s agenda was full of items we care deeply about: teaching the truth, special education, and censorship. The committee considered items related to HB 900, HB 3978, and ethnic studies courses.
#TeachTheTruth: One of the Tribfest sessions sponsored by Texas AFT is recording of the “Teaching Texas” podcast with Rep. Gina Hinojosa and State Board of Education Chair Keven Ellis. The topic: what the state’s new textbook approval process means for schools, teachers, students, and parents.
Join Texas AFT at the Texas Tribune Festival
Connect the classroom with current events at TribFest, Sept. 21-23 in downtown Austin.
It’s not enough for students to learn about civics and public policy in textbooks. To be thoughtful members of the community, they need to understand the nuance of the moment, too. That’s where the Texas Tribune Festival comes in.
At Texas’ premier politics and policy event, students and educators will hear from and interact with national and state lawmakers and thought leaders as they talk through the problems we’re facing today and the opportunities on the horizon for Texas and the nation.
Texas AFT is a proud sponsor of this year’s TribFest, so we hope you’ll join us for three days of conversations about issues that matter to you, your students and your community, including school funding, teacher pay, education standards, vouchers, regulating Texas higher education and many others.
Last Friday, Sept. 1, hundreds of laws passed by the Texas Legislature earlier this year were scheduled to go into effect.
Despite the planned implementation, many were stalled thanks to court-ordered injunctions. Many of these stalled bills are incredibly consequential to public educators and are equally controversial.
In last week’s Hotline, we went over several bills that were scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1; some were stalled, some have had a rocky implementation, and some have garnered significant public opposition. This week, we’re looking at a few more such bills:
HB 2127: The “Death Star” Bill, preempting local pro-worker ordinances
SB 14: banning life-saving health care for Texas trans youth
SB 17: banning diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education
SB 18: weakening tenure protections in higher education
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%.
Texas AFT Retiree Plus will be hosting its next virtual campaign event next Tuesday, Sept. 12.
We will contact Texas voters and encourage them to double-check their voter registration status ahead of the Nov. 7 COLA election. The last day to register to vote in this election is Oct. 10.
This week, the long-awaited trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton began in the Texas Senate. Toward the end of the regular Legislature’s session, the Republican-controlled Texas House voted to impeach Paxton, a fellow Republican, after an investigation that was spurred by the Office of the Attorney General’s request to have Texas taxpayers foot the bill in a whistle-blowing case brought on by the FBI.
The trial in the Senate began Tuesday with Paxton’s legal team proposing a variety of pretrial motions, many of which would have dismissed each of the proposed 20 articles of impeachment. Every one of Paxton’s pretrial motions were voted down, with most motions receiving more than two-thirds of votes in opposition to Paxton.
If two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of impeachment on any of the 20 articles, Paxton will be removed from office. Despite an overwhelming vote to impeach in the House, analysis suggests that a two-thirds vote might be a more difficult task in the Texas Senate.
6 Finalists Named for 2024 Texas Teacher of the Year
Six outstanding Texas teachers have been recognized as finalists for the Texas Association of School Administrators’ 2024 Texas Teacher of the Year award.
Congratulations are in order for the three elementary and three secondary finalists:
Dr. Isela Russell, Lewisville ISD
Taniece Thompson-Smith, Abilene ISD
Genesis Yougas, McKinney ISD
Naveen Cunha, Bryan ISD
Schrundagale Griffith, Longview ISD
Dr. Cynthia Hopkins, Corpus Christi ISD
We are especially proud of Dr. Cynthia Hopkins, an active member of the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers.
Hopkins has taught science at Harold C. Kaffie Middle School in Corpus Christi ISD since 2007. She sponsors the school’s robotics, coding, drone, engineering, science fair, and STEM honor clubs. Hopkins also chairs her district advisory team, serves as a mentor teacher for new teachers, and has hosted nine clinical teachers.
“Students are not a blank slate for me to fill with science and robotics knowledge,” she says. “They investigated the world around them for 12 years before stepping into my classroom. I want to honor that knowledge while providing opportunities for students to attach new experiences to their prior knowledge.”
Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time
📖Commentary: These two San Antonians exemplify why we celebrate Labor Day. This Labor Day, the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council honored our former president and his spouse, Tom Cummins and Shelley Potter, as the second recipients of the Lloyd and Libby Doggett Community Service Award. This dynamic duo has a combined 95 years of American Federation of Teachers membership, including 75 years in leadership positions. (San Antonio Express-News, Sept. 3)
📖Addressing threatening behavior at Texas schools. While much of the discussion about school safety has recently revolved around putting armed security on every campus and increasing police training, there is less highlighted work being done on campuses across the state to spot potential problems before they spiral into violent behavior. (KPRC, Aug. 31)
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