Educators in Texas:
I have always been proud that I chose a career in education here in Texas. And, I admit, though I have always voted, I never put much thought into my candidate's stance on education funding. But NEVER have I felt public education so unsupported by those who make our state's laws. Here is why it is so important that we cross party lines, if necessary, to vote for candidates who support funding for public education. Your future, and the future of your children and grandchildren, depends on your vote in this extremely critical state election.
When the recession hit Texas, cutbacks were implemented, from which public education has never recovered. These are the facts as I have gleaned them from my research:
In the last nine years, the proportion of funding the state contributes to public education has declined by 12.6 percent per pupil. Because the state relies on local property owners to shoulder the burden of school finance, our current school finance system is completely unbalanced and in need of reform. Low income schools need extra funding to support teachers and administrators upon whom more demands are made. EVERY student in Texas deserves a quality education, which, of course, pays off for everybody in the long run. Likewise, property owners need a break, especially as our property taxes soar.
Students with disabilities have been shortchanged for years by an illegal cap on special education enrollment. That cap has now been abolished, meaning more students will need special education services, requiring an increase in funding.
Due to the public outcry for increased school safety, more dollars must be allocated for counselors and social workers, security officers, and security technology.
Teachers are being slammed and are leaving the profession in droves, for many reasons –
The increasing pressure to perform on the STAAR test and demands from administration, chasing the STAAR “carrot,” is driving good teachers away. In addition, the $90 million tab for the test doesn’t even count the cost of time lost per student devoted to testing, re-testing, remediation, and benchmark testing. This is money wasted because the test is flawed and has improved nothing. Texas still lags behind most other states in student achievement. There are better, less expensive, measures of accountability.
Teachers’ salaries are shrinking, due to exploding healthcare premiums and deductibles. If you make $50,000 a year, and your family healthcare premiums take up half your salary, by the time you pay your bills and childcare, you are actually losing money.
Teachers no longer have the confidence that when they retire, they won’t have to worry about money because the Teacher Retirement System is under fire. Our healthcare costs have increased due to a shortfall in funding because of TRS’s poor investment strategies. Retired teachers’ annuities remain stagnant, regardless of rapidly increasing cost-of-living. In addition, teachers are penalized because with the Windfall Elimination Provision, we can’t collect Social Security, even if we have paid into it for years. So, unless legislators provide permanent funding for TRS instead of applying a bandaid each session, who would consider moving from the private sector to teaching, knowing his or her future was not secure?
I, personally, cannot understand why the people upon whom the future of Texas depends, its students and teachers, are so undervalued by our legislators. Perhaps it is because teachers generally don’t make a fuss. They are far too loyal to their kids to “rock the boat,” and far too busy to campaign for a better life. Perhaps it is because we can’t contribute the millions of dollars in campaign money that will earn us a pat on the back from the legislators we buy. But we do have power in numbers. NOW is the time to be your own best advocate. This is NOT a partisan issue. I, personally, will vote for those who I know will support me, regardless of party affiliation. Educate yourself, call your representatives, and hold those who don’t support us accountable.
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