Texas AFT Members Are Building a True Educator’s Bill of Rights 

By now, you probably already know the story, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves: Last year, the state of Texas had a $33 billion budget surplus – not a dime of that went to increasing public education funding. Over a 140-day regular session and four 30-day special sessions, the governor and his allies in the Legislature held public education funding hostage in order to unsuccessfully push his voucher schemes, which would further defund public education.  

Educators are feeling the effects of this funding stagnation: According to recent analysis by Texas AFT, the average Texas teacher salary has declined by over 9% since the 2009-2010 school year. Amid this existential crisis in public education, Gov. Greg Abbott, the supposed leader of this state, is pointing fingers at everyone but himself. 

Last legislative session, this state’s educators stopped their governor’s voucher plan; next legislative session, we fight for and win the schools that students and educators deserve. That fight starts with offering real, forward-looking solutions to the issues plaguing public education. Solutions that the leaders of this state have failed to provide. Solutions that will allow for public schools to thrive. 

These solutions aren’t born in a board room or even a legislative hearing room. No, these solutions are born in the classroom. They are born from educators who have direct experience in the classroom and who have direct knowledge of what schools and students need to thrive. The path to thriving public education starts with educators. That’s why Texas AFT’s legislative agenda for the 2025 legislative session will fall under the umbrella of an Educator’s Bill of Rights, and it is based entirely on feedback from K-12 and higher education employees.  

This might not seem like a novel idea (Texas AFT’s legislative agenda has always been formulated by its membership), but you might be surprised that this basic principle of educator-centered solutions is rarely employed at the Capitol in Austin. In March 2022, Gov. Abbott formed the Teacher Vacancy Task Force to “examine the teacher retention and recruitment challenges across Texas,” but the task force was initially stacked with administrators and only included two full-time educators. Similarly, during last year’s regular legislative session, Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) authored Senate Bill 9, which he titled a “Teacher’s Bill of Rights,” but he solicited very little educator feedback in formulating the proposal, which ultimately did not become law anyway. 

Texas AFT wants to change how public education legislation is formulated in this state. Over the past few weeks, educators from around the state have been convening locally to construct this bill of rights. Texas AFT staff have been traveling around the state to speak with educators and understand their needs, so that our union can build a legislative agenda to bring them to fruition. 

Photos from Educator’s Bill of Rights Drafting sessions with Education Round Rock (left) and Corpus Christi AFT (right). 

Last Thursday, more than 100 educators from across the state convened for a single drafting session on Zoom. There, they discussed the many problems facing public education, and divided the many grievances into the 10 articles listed below. 

  1. Right to reasonable working conditions 
  1. Right to fair wages 
  1. Right to a secure retirement 
  1. Right to quality childcare 
  1. Right to a healthy, safe, and secure working environment 
  1. Right to academic freedom 
  1. Right to professional training and development 
  1. Right to organize with their coworkers 
  1. Right to democratic representation and a voice in decision-making 
  1. Right to a separation of church and schools 

Drafting these ideas for a legislative agenda is just the first step in the process. Texas AFT staff will work this summer to flesh out these proposals into a coherent agenda and then to compile the agenda into actual legislation to be filed. Mark your calendars and keep an eye on the Hotline for more information. The 89th legislative session begins Jan. 14, 2025, but lawmakers can pre-file bills as early as Nov. 11, 2024.