In the weeks leading up to the legislative session, which starts Jan. 10, Texas AFT staff have been attending a host of education events and panels, which have yielded some interesting insights from legislators in attendance.
At an event in November in Lubbock, Rep. Ken King, who serves on the House Public Education Committee, said private school vouchers, as far as he is concerned, are “dead on arrival in the Legislature.” Both Rep. Harold Dutton, chair of the House education committee, and Rep. Gary Van Deaver echoed those sentiments this week at an Austin event hosted by The Texas Tribune. Both Dutton and Van Deaver said vouchers were a fiscal drain on the public education system and that those taxpayer dollars should go toward improving our neighborhood schools instead.
At this point, the message coming from the Texas House is clear: Vouchers are bad for Texas.
Van Deaver and Dutton also offered comments in support of increasing teacher pay and decreasing teacher workloads. They said they recognized that we cannot continue allowing teachers and support staff to be overworked to the point of burnout while also expecting them to provide the quality of education our students deserve without the resources they need.
School safety was also a top concern in these listening sessions. Panelists spoke of the need to step up financially to fill the anticipated gap when federal ESSER funds run out, even as districts continue the work of securing campuses. Van Deaver specifically said we should increase the school safety allotment and leave it to districts to determine what is most needed to address safety and mental health in our schools.
We have also heard a general acknowledgement of the failings of House Bill 4545 from the previous session. The one-size-fits-all solution of 30 hours of accelerated instruction has proven near impossible to implement, and there seems to be a desire to fix these issues in the upcoming session.
Clearly, the priorities of our Respect Agenda are already resonating in the Capitol. We need to ensure we continue our communication with Legislators throughout the session, so that our priorities stay top of mind with our state’s decision-makers. Start today by signing on to our Respect Agenda demands and proving how unifying they are!