Texas AFT ramps up campaign to #StopSTAAR
The STAAR test is one of the most controversial topics in Texas public education. Educators will be asked to administer the STAAR test during the pandemic and students are being asked to take the test in-person. We’re bringing together a panel of testing experts alongside AFT members and legislators to talk about accountability and testing.
Texas AFT also launched our #StopSTAAR map of Texas today. Put your name on the map as a school employee, parent, or student who stands in solidarity to stop STAAR testing this spring.
And if you haven’t written a letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath demanding he stop the STAAR this year, please click here to send one!
Gov. Abbott’s State of the State: It’s what he didn’t mention that’s alarming
Gov. Greg Abbott in his State of the State Monday outlined his priorities for the legislative session–including “emergency items” that he wants fast-tracked through the Legislature. Missing, however, were specific items for addressing the pandemic, and the governor neglected to address prioritizing the vaccination of school employees and making campuses safer for in-person instruction.
“Heroes” of the pandemic he cited included “nurses and doctors, the food servers, the hospital janitors…truck drivers, grocery clerks, small business owners, and so many Texans who labor on the front lines…think of our farmers and the ranchers who provide the food that is so desperately needed.” Educators didn’t make his list.
On a brighter note, while touting what he sees as the economic successes in Texas, Abbott added: “To stay on top, to sustain this growth, we must continue to invest in our future, and that is exactly what we did last session when we…made major investments in our students and teachers…This session we must continue to fund education as we promised.” Abbott also stressed the need for civics education to teach students “why we are so exceptional….and ensure that every child learns the values of freedom, good governance and patriotism.” Finally, the governor reminded teachers of the average pay increase they received last year: $3,800 for under 5 years of service, and $5,200 for over 5 years—raises that the majority of teachers say they never saw in their paychecks.
One of the governor’s emergency items should benefit public education: “expanding broadband internet access.” But the others were glaringly outside addressing safety in the pandemic and more in line with the partisan, far-right legislative agendas seen in past sessions: punishing local governments that “defund the police,’” “changing the bail system,” “election integrity” and “providing civil liability protections for businesses that were open during the pandemic.”
Town Hall recognizes National School Counseling Week, highlights bills to help counselors
If you missed this town hall, take an hour to watch an amazing conversation between AFT school counselors Stephanie Reyna and Jennifer Lamm and State Rep. Mary Gonzalez. We honor all of our member counselors during National School Counseling Week for the faithful service they perform in schools across Texas. Gonzalez is an ally to school counselors and is carrying a number of helpful bills this legislative session to improve school counseling in Texas.
Speaker and Lt. Gov. announce committee assignments for the 87th Legislative Session
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed senators to 15 standing state Senate committees and two special committees for the legislative session. All but one committee will be chaired by Republicans. Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) the longest serving senator, will chair the Senate Criminal Justice committee. Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), who served as the chair for the Education Committee last session, will continue as chair.
Yesterday, House Speaker Rep. Dade Phelan announced assignments for the House’s 34 committees. Perhaps the most consequential assignment for educators is the replacement of Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) with Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) as the chair of the Public Education Committee.
Another significant change in committee leadership came with the replacement of Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) with Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) as the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Public education ally Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) was assigned as the vice-chair.
Good bills of the week:
SB 411 Royce West (D-Dallas) like its House bill companion HB 1018 by Rep Art Fierro, this bill calls for a charter school’s governing body to hold board meetings within the geographical area served by the school. The meetings should be broadcast via the internet to increase accessibility. The goal of this bill would create transparency with community members/parents and give them the voice they deserve to have, especially before unelected charter boards.
HB 1068 Alma Allen (D- Houston) allows school district employees to use their personal leave time on days that are designated as school holidays. This is a helpful piece of legislation as it would permit school personnel to be compensated for days that the district is closed, and they would have lost pay.
HB 779 Art Fierro (D- El Paso) would require school districts to reimburse teachers who purchase classroom supplies with their personal money. Educators teaching 9th grade and below would be eligible for up to $250 per school year under this legislation.
TASB Releases Teacher Salary Survey Data
The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) recently released the results from its 2020-2021 district personnel salary survey. The survey shows that the median starting salary for a new teacher is $43,250 (down 1.7 percent from last year), but TASB clarified this result is slightly skewed because more small districts with lower salaries on average were surveyed this year. The survey shows that for school districts with over 10,000 students, the median starting salary is $54,075 (a 1.3 percent increase from last year) and that the median teacher average salary in responding districts is $51,989 (a 0.3 percent decrease from last year).
The Quality Counts 2020 Highlights Reports captures key data to assess state’s educational performance by ranking states for educational opportunities and performance:Texas is failing or barely passing each category. Texas placed 42nd among the states, with an overall grade of C-minus. Texas earns a C and ranks 41st in the Chance-for-Success category, which gauges the role that education plays in promoting positive outcomes across an individual’s lifetime. In School Finance, Texas receives a D-plus and ranks 40th. This category takes into account school spending patterns and equity in the distribution of funding. For the K-12 Achievement Index, assessing status, change, and equity, it finishes 32nd with a grade of C-minus.