Texas AFT President Linda Bridges was a featured speaker at today’s state capitol press conference announcing the March 24 Save Texas Schools rally in Austin, one year after the last such rally drew 13,000 parents, educators, students, and concerned citizens to the capitol to oppose budget cuts. Bridges described the results of two recent Texas AFT surveys, one of school employees and parents and the other of superintendents, that have documented the damage done by the severe education cuts ultimately enacted last year.
“Statewide we’ve seen larger class sizes, lack of instructional materials, and loss of programs to help struggling students succeed,” said Bridges. “Parents, students and teachers on March 24 will again send a loud message that we plan to fight for our kids and that we can do better for them and our state’s future. Last year we gathered by the thousands to protest these cuts but were rebuffed by some politicians who claimed that schools would do just fine, that the planned cuts would be absorbed outside the classroom. That story line didn’t fool us then, and it doesn’t wash now as we look at what thousands of school employees and hundreds of superintendents have told us in surveys.”
Bridges added: “This isn’t just about cutting band trips or football awards banquets. Laying off teachers means cramming more kids into each class and the loss of the individualized attention our diverse population of students requires. Eliminating pre-K grants means that kids don’t get the foundation in learning that they desperately need. Wiping out tutorials and services like the Student Success Initiative means more kids won’t meet increasingly rigorous achievement standards, or will simply drop out altogether.”
Another consequence of the cuts is the eroding morale of school employees who are overworked, taxed with large class sizes and excessive paperwork and beaten down by an increasing overemphasis on standardized testing, Bridges said. Small wonder, then, that some 81 percent of school employees surveyed said the climate for students, teachers, and staff at their school this year was “Worse” or “Much Worse,” and 72 percent further described it as “Stressful and Taxing,” she said. The Texas AFT survey reports can be downloaded at www.texasaft.org. (For more information on the March 24 and to sign the Save Texas Schools petition, visit www.savetxschools.org.)