More than 2,000 Texas AFT members and allies from across Texas rallied on the front steps of the Texas Capitol Monday and brought their strong grass-roots presence to bear in scores of visits with individual legislators.
They came together in support of a strong, proactive agenda for public education and the schoolchildren and higher-ed students they serve. Key elements of that agenda:
–support for adequate and equitable funding of the state’s commitment to public education, including the funding needed to make up for a decade and a half of stagnant state aid for school employees’ health care;
–support for proven strategies of school improvement such as community schools, which rely on parents, educators, and community stakeholders at a campus to design and implement their own homegrown improvement plan coordinating services needed by students and their families;
–support for a smarter accountability system that relies on meaningful measures of student performance, such as portfolio assessment, and marshals resources for struggling campuses instead of imposing punitive measures;
–support for measures that bolster respect and dignity for education employees to attract and keep the dedicated employees our students deserve.
The Texas AFT contingent at the Capitol Monday was equally clear about the agenda we oppose. We will work together with our allies to defeat the efforts of those who would underfund our schools and colleges, falsely declare our schools a failure based on the misuse of standardized test scores, and then offer the false “solution” of private-school vouchers or handover of public schools to private operators. (This session the main voucher bill is SB 3 by Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, which has now been set for a March 16 hearing in the Senate Education Committee Taylor chairs. You can send a letter in opposition to SB 3 right here and now.)
Participants in the Texas AFT Lobby Day also made it clear to the purveyors of this retrograde agenda that we see right through their thinly veiled attempt to quell resistance by silencing the voices of Texas school employees. We refer to SB 13 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and its companion HB 510 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston), which would take away employees’ ability to direct voluntary dues payments to the organizations like Texas AFT that serve to amplify their voice and meet their representational needs. SB 13 is awaiting further action in the Texas Senate after winning committee approval on a contested vote. HB 510 is still in committee in the House. You can send a letter right now in opposition to the attack on employees’ right to voluntary payroll dues deduction. Use your voice or lose it!