Sept. 8: A Hefty SBOE Recap

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

Friday, September 8, 2023

🎤 Is this thing on?

The title of the latest poll from the Charles Butt Foundation says it all: “Listening to the Educator Experience.”  Too few in Texas’ halls of power want to do that. 

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%). 

Seventy-one percent of educators surveyed want the state to prioritize spending to provide students with free meals. (These are the people the governor calls “radical” and “anti-parent”?)

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. 

If you’re a public school employee in this state, we hope you’ll join the largest effort to track the actual conditions and real issues in our school this fall. They may not want to listen, but we’ll make them.

In this week’s Hotline: 

  • 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. 

STAAR Updates 

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. 

When questioned about the lawsuit involving seven districts to delay the implementation of the A-F “refresh”, Commissioner Morath claimed it was “without merit.”

Charter School Rules

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.   

School Funding

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.  

Read more about this highly consequential meeting in our full recap online.

— Event

Image reads: Teaching texas podcast with rep gina hinojosa and S-B-O-E chair Keven Ellis.

#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.

📚 The TribFest student experience is a great fit for high school, college, graduate and post-graduate students — students attend TribFest for just $50

Educators, faculty and staff in education get a discount, too! Educators enjoy admission to TribFest for just $75. Group rates available! Get 10% off when you buy 10 or more tickets.

Buy discounted tickets and be sure to share TribFest with any students.

— Texas Legislature

Legislative Round-Up: Bad Bills Going Into Effect

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

— 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%.

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.


Click here to RSVP for the event.

— Texas Legislature

Senate Impeachment Trial Against AG Paxton Begins

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.

— Teacher of the Year

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.”

Recommended Reading

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) 

📖 Teachers Everywhere Should Be Worried About What’s Happening in Houston ISD. Often, the real story isn’t as bad as newspaper headlines make them out to be. That’s not the case with what’s happening in Houston ISD. The experiences teachers are sharing are a different story entirely. (We Are Teachers, Sept. 1)

📖 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)