Action Needed Now—Call Your Senator, Oppose Attacks on Class-Size Limit, Pay/Contract Rights

The Senate Education Committee takes up two bills tomorrow that demand your immediate attention. SB 443 by Sen. Dan Patrick, Republican of Houston, would effectively eliminate the class-size cap of 22 to 1 in grades K-4 that has served our students well for nearly three decades. SB 443 would change the cap for each classroom into a district-wide “average” size limit—which, when you average together small, specialized classes and larger regular classes becomes no meaningful limit at all. Use Texas AFT’s “click to call” option to be put through to your state senator by going to this Web site: http://bit.ly/fIsoN6.

We urge you also to address the other bad bill to be heard in committee today, which started out as SB 468 but now has been reintroduced and will be heard as SB 3. It is being presented in the guise of “mandate relief” offering “flexibility” for school districts to cope with the current state fiscal crisis—but that flexibility would come at the expense of schoolchildren and teachers. This bill, by Sen. Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano, would permanently repeal the state law assuring educators of a pay raise last session that districts could not undercut. The bill also would permanently and adversely alter educators’ contract rights, including their right to 45 days’ notice of proposed non-renewal of their term contract. (School districts could notify you on the last day of the school term instead.)

SB 3 also would suspend the minimum salary schedule and allow school districts to cut teacher pay via furloughs of up to seven days, without safeguards to ensure that such furloughs really are a last-resort alternative to layoffs. The seven-day furlough would cost the average teacher $1,832 a year, by our estimate. The bill also would let districts rehire retired teachers without any of the contract rights or salary guarantees provided in the Education Code–undermining for all educators the provisions in current law that protect them from unfair, arbitrary treatment.

Needless to say, Texas AFT’s legislative team will be speaking out against these bills at the committee hearing tomorrow. But your voice is critically important to the outcome. Again, please use the Texas AFT “click to call” system to reach your senator with a message in opposition to these two bills, SB 443 and SB 3. Start by clicking here.