A recent Texas AFT survey of public school superintendents from 241 districts found that state budget cuts of $5.4 billion are having a significant impact on classroom instruction, teacher morale and help for struggling students.
“Students are not being sheltered from budget cuts, as some of the state’s leadership suggested would be the case last year when they took an axe to public education funding,” said Texas AFT President Linda Bridges in a press statement on the survey released today.
“Instead superintendents are telling us that teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts in services for struggling students are creating a stressful environment and creating concerns about how to deal with the implementation of the new standardized tests being rolled out this spring.”
As one superintendent noted, “The funds to produce a world?class educational system in Texas are there. The willingness to invest in our kids and our state is not. Cut now, pay later. Our state leadership has failed us.”
Texas AFT mailed surveys to 1,051 superintendents throughout the state in December and received 241 responses, 23 percent of the districts statewide. The superintendent survey findings echo concerns revealed in a November Texas AFT online survey of some 3,500 teachers and school employees regarding the impacts of budget cuts. That report also showed widespread teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, cuts to key services designed to help students pass standardized tests, and stressful working environments for teachers.
Bridges said superintendents noted that most positions eliminated from budgets cuts were for teachers. She added that a large number of superintendents said that larger class sizes and mounting pressures to achieve on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests this spring were likely to drive others out of the profession. One superintendent wrote, “I believe more experienced teachers (about to retire) will leave the profession and more younger teachers will do all that they can to find jobs in other professions. Why go where you are not appreciated.” Another stated, “Most staff are thankful to have a job, and I feel they will stay in place for the next three years. After that, the accountability system will drive them out.”
In the November survey of school employees, 81 percent of respondents said the school climate for students, teachers and staff was worse or much worse, with 72 percent saying it was “stressful and taxing” and another 9 percent describing it as “hostile and unfriendly.”
“Superintendents are backing up what teachers and school employees by the thousands have told us,” Bridges said. “There’s no getting around the fact that budget cuts are hurting students, teachers and administrators, and our state’s future will suffer because the state’s leadership has let us down.”
Bridges added: “Superintendents are community leaders whose job it is to inspire achievement, so they generally tend to assume a ‘can?do’ attitude publicly in the face of daunting challenges like these budget cuts. But there’s also a time to be candid, and this survey gave these leaders an opportunity to say just how dire situations are in our schools.” (For a complete report on the online survey of school employees, see www.texasaft.org.)