September 10, 2021: Texas AFT sues state to block voter suppression bill; New special session on the way; AFT’s Randi Weingarten visits Texas

Texas AFT joins in lawsuit to protect access to voting after voter suppression bill is signed into law

 at top right, governor Greg Abbott smiles holding SB 1, while image on left shows a lengthy polling place lineTexas AFT sued state election officials Tuesday to block the provisions of Senate Bill 1 (signed into law the same day), which reduces access to and suppresses voting for Texans. Also suing in the petition are Voto Latino, LULAC Texas, and the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans.

“We should be showing our students that Texas values voter participation and strives to make it more accessible,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo. “This law is an embarrassment, one that students will see as taking us backward to a time when many voices and their votes were repressed. While our students are learning about past discriminatory voting practices, they are confronted today with a life lesson that proves the adage that those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it. This law sends a harmful and ominous message about our students’ future ability to participate in our democracy.”

Texas AFT is a strong advocate of voting rights and increasing access to voting. The state also faces at least four other lawsuits against the controversial bill.


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AFT president visits Dallas, meets with school officials and members on safety issues

AFT President Randi Weingarten stands center, masked, with Dallas ISD Superintendent Michale HInojosa (masked) and union leadersDallas ISD Superintendent, Dr. Michael Hinojosa (left center), (and to the right) AFT President Randi Weingarten, Alliance-AFT President Rena Honea, and Alliance-AFT Executive Vice President George Rangel.)

Randi Weingarten, national president of our 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, visited with Dallas members and school officials Thursday on her “Back to School for All” tour to stress safety protocols to keep schools open.

Weingarten met with Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa and local leaders on the importance of mask requirements, vaccinations, and improved ventilation to ensure a safe school year. She also highlighted the morally reprehensible stance of Gov. Greg Abbott, who has repeatedly ignored science and thrust children and educators into harm’s way by resisting sensible safety protocols.

Weingarten has been crisscrossing the country and Texas this fall, visiting 20 states and 24 cities to let families know that schools can reopen and stay open with safety and health protocols in place.

Accompanying Weingarten in Dallas was Texas AFT President Zeph Capo, who emphasizes the state union’s efforts to educate the public about safety protocols, including digital and video ads on the need for local mask decisions and vaccination. Additionally, the local union for Dallas ISD, Alliance-AFT, and its president, Rena Honea, have led efforts on the “Back to School for All” campaign, including:

  • Members knocking on almost 5,000 doors in low-income neighborhoods in Dallas, connecting with parents to support a safe return;
  • Members reaching out to parents via phone and text to support masks;
  • Members advocating to ensure Dallas was one of the first ISDs to get a mask mandate;
  • Texas AFT is running a local advertising campaign on TV, online, and newspapers to support vaccines among parents and kids over the age of 12 (Watch the vaccination video and our video for local decision-making onmasks and investments in air quality on campuses).

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Gov. Abbott calls for a third special session later this month

Looking up into the spiraling dome of the capital with a star in the distance at the top.This Tuesday, Gov, Greg Abbott announced a third called special session of the Texas Legislature to convene on Monday, September 20. In the proclamation announcing the special session, Abbott directed the Legislature to pass legislation on the following issues:

  1. Drawing district maps based on the 2020 census data;
  2. Banning vaccine mandates by governmental entities, including school districts;
  3. Restricting transgender athletes from participating in sports with their own identified gender group;
  4. Appropriating federal funds from the American Rescue Plan; and
  5. Outlawing the tethering of dogs with heavy chains, considering the veto statement previously issued on similar legislation

The Texas Legislature intends to draw and approve new maps for its state Senate and state House districts, as well as for the State Board of Education and U.S. Congress. Due to population increases over the past ten years, Texas was apportioned two new U.S. congressional seats.

Last month, Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates by governmental entities in Texas. Abbott is now directing the Texas Legislature to codify that in Texas law. Vaccines have been proven to be extremely effective in the fight against COVID-19, and governmental entities, including schools, have long required FDA-approved vaccinations for other diseases such as polio and measles. (The Pfizer vaccine received full FDA approval last month.)

Abbott also previously directed the Legislature to pass restrictions on transgender athletes during the regular session in the spring and the two previous called sessions this summer. The legislation failed to pass in all three legislative sessions, thanks in part to advocacy against these bills by Texas AFT and other organizations.


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Texas AFT clinics help residents complete the path to full citizenship

A man with mask helps a seated woman with paperwork

Photos: (above) local union members pitched in to help candidates for citizenship. (Right) AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus reads to students. (Below) Students display their new books.

This month our Rio Grande Valley local unions held educational workshops and a finalAFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus in blue union t-shirt reading to students Citizenship Clinic to help area residents become U.S. citizens. More than 160 residents took part in the clinic. Participating locals included AFT chapters for McAllen, Edinburg, PSJA, La Joya, and Brownsville. The effort follows another successful clinic earlier this year in Houston.

AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus also was on hand for a tour of area schools in McAllen, La Joya, Edinburg, and Pharr—part of AFT’s Back to School for All campaign and tour promoting safety in the pandemic. DeJesus, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo, and local leaders handed out free books and school supplies to students at the schools.

Four students sit on the floor, masked, displaying their new books they received
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Dark blue plan cover. Text: Path Out of the Pandemic.Biden announces new pandemic action plan

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a new plan to address the recent escalation of COVID-19 cases: “Path Out of the Pandemic.” The plan addresses several strategies—many centered around vaccination efforts—and includes a section on “Keeping Schools Safely Open.” The plan includes additional federal aid for districts that have faced punitive funding cuts for implementing pandemic safety measures like requiring masks.


Events

 

Texas AFT logo and text: National Board Certification

Bridges Institute hosts National Board Teacher Certification preparation course

Texas AFT prepares teachers interested in obtaining a National Board Certification by providing virtual courses that delve into the National Board Standards and certification process. Introduction to National Board Certification will prepare participants for the National Board Certification journey. Participants will complete this course over several weeks at their own pace (asynchronous learning). A facilitator will be available to provide individual support as needed throughout the course.

Interested teachers must attend a live virtual meeting, including a program overview, course exploration, and Q&A Session. Two opportunities will be provided for participants to attend the live meeting:

Wednesday, October 27th, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Bridges Institute offers Mindfulness Essentials series

Color bar orange with text: Mindfulness Essentials
The Bridges Institute will be hosting the Mindfulness Essentials series via Zoom next month. Beginning on September 15 and occurring on subsequent Wednesdays, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., throughout the months of September and October. These free instructive webinars will help participants better understand their mind and emotions. CPE credit will be issued per hour of participation. Sign up for the webinars here.

In addition to the instructive webinars, The Bridges Institute will also host weekly practice sessions in which participants can take part in guided meditation. These sessions begin September 20 and occur on subsequent Mondays, from 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., throughout the months of September and October. Sign up for the practice sessions here.


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