Texas AFT Takes Respect Agenda to the Capitol

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo speaks at a press conference at the Capitol. Local AFT presidents and Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) stand behind him. 

The 88th Legislature is now in session, and Texas AFT local leaders were on hand this week to discuss our union’s Respect Agenda with lawmakers, meeting with 78 different offices on Tuesday, the opening day of the session. 

With the comptroller announcing a $188.2 billion budget for the Legislature to allot (and a $32.7 billion surplus), we want to make clear that our chronically underfunded schools and underpaid school employees must be the priority for legislators.

Among the demands our union brought to the Capitol this week: 

  • A $10,000 across-the-board raise for teachers and certified staff, including nurses and librarians
  • A 15% across-the-board raise for classified staff, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, and custodians
  • A substantial increase to the basic allotment to fund these raises, as well as investments in our schools to make them safer and more supportive of students
  • Closing the class size loopholes that allow districts to overcrowd classrooms without penalty
  • A defined work year for educators so they aren’t expected to sacrifice weekends and evenings consistently
  • A significant cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators that keeps pace annually with inflation

“I am proud to stand with the teachers of Texas to declare the 88th legislative session the public education session,” said Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) at a press conference hosted by Texas AFT on Tuesday. “We act or we don’t act. What we do will be pivotal to the future of our public schools.”
Hinojosa discussed her bill, House Bill 31, co-authored by Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple), that would move Texas public schools to a more equitable and robust enrollment-based funding model, providing more resources for significant salary increases.

In remarks to the media, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo called our agenda “unifying,” a statement supported by the bipartisan delegation of lawmakers standing alongside him. Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) and Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) were in attendance, and both underscored the importance of increased funding for public education and prioritizing educator and student needs.

“It’s time to walk the walk and talk the talk,” Hunter said. “This session, we have to put education on the front burner.”

Meetings with Lawmakers

Alliance/AFT President Rena Honea with Rep. Carl Sherman 

On Monday night, local union presidents were joined by representatives from 15 legislative offices for a mixer in Austin. The event was an informal way to meet representatives (and their families), as well as staff, and start building relationships before the session got underway. 

We want to thank the following representatives for joining us or sending their staff: 

  • Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Garland)
  • Rep. Salman Bhojani (D-Euless)
  • Rep. John Bucy (D-Austin)
  • Rep. Mary González (D-Clint)
  • Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch)
  • Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson)
  • Rep. Ron Reynolds (D- Missouri City)
  • Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston)
  • Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (D-Houston)
  • Rep. Carl Sherman (D-Lancaster)
  • Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood)

On Tuesday, following the press event, local presidents and staff split up to meet with legislators from their areas in their offices. All together, Texas AFT visited 78 offices, delivering materials with our Respect Agenda and having conversations with both legislators and staff. 

Empowering Our Members

Of course, to move our agenda forward, we need everyone in the fight. On Wednesday, more than 125 AFT members from across the state participated in a virtual legislative advocacy training. 

Members learned about opportunities to make an impact in this session through a number of avenues, including testifying at the Capitol, submitting public comments on bills, and writing letters to the editor

During the event, members texted more than 800 of their own friends and family, asking them to sign the Respect Pledge. Their work generated more than 300 new pledge signatures!

Why We Need the Respect Agenda

Ayaan Moledina, a student in Round Rock ISD, and Sara Fox, a teacher in Conroe ISD who recently left her job, talk about the crisis in public schools in Texas and why Texas AFT’s legislative agenda is so important. Watch on our Youtube channel.