Governor gets it wrong on teacher pay in ‘State of the State’ speech

You can listen to a full response to Abbott’s State of the State speech from Louis Malfaro here.

Gov. Greg Abbott visited the Capitol today to give his State of the State speech, in which he outlined his priorities for the legislative session, including a handful of emergency items. The governor is empowered to declare certain issues and corresponding legislation emergencies, which allows the Legislature to break the rules prohibiting passage of legislation in the first 60 days of the session. The emergency items are school finance, teacher pay, school safety (including an emphasis on mental health), limits on property tax increases and disaster recovery (and preparedness) in response to Hurricane Harvey.

While the governor made public education a key focus of his speech, it was clear that he was sticking to his agenda of pushing “merit pay” based on standardized test scores, including incentives for “effective teachers” and providing “pathways for the best teachers” to earn $100,000 a year.

We’ll let our president, Louis Malfaro, sum up our thoughts on Abbott’s remarks with Malfaro’s statement on the speech today:

The governor is out of step with the Texas public when it comes to school students, teachers and the misuse of standardized testing.

The governor has rightly declared increasing teacher pay as an emergency item for the session, but he fails to see the real emergency. He is pushing a scheme for teacher raises for a scant few, based on the misuse of the STAAR test. The governor’s call doesn’t solve the crisis in our profession that is facing a shortage of certified teachers. It doesn’t address the emergency of educators and our families not being able to go to the doctor when we’re ill because we can’t afford treatment. It doesn’t address the emergency of teachers leaving the profession due to stagnant salaries–more than $7,000 less than the national average and some 28 percent lower than comparable professions—and seeing them as an insult to our hard work and something that leaves us unable to support our families. It doesn’t do anything for our custodians and food-service workers and other crucial school staff who are trying to eke out a living on substandard wages. The governor’s fixation on money for test scores certainly won’t help the emergency of the state reneging on its promise to provide a dignified life for our retired educators with pension and health care that can support them after decades of service to our schoolchildren.

The governor gives offense to Texas teachers every time he and his education commissioner claim to want more pay for the so-called best teachers; the implication being that the hundreds of thousands of women and men who teach and support the 5.4 million students in Texas’ public schools are unworthy of being paid decently for the hard work they do every day.

Texas election results and recent surveys of Texans show strong public support for greater state funding for Texas public schools and for higher teacher pay for all teachers. Increased funding for schools, including funding for full-day Pre-K, creates an opportunity for all students to reach their academic potential and will take the pressure off local school districts to continue raising local property taxes. Unfortunately, the governor’s ill-conceived tax cap plan will detract from the ability to achieve any of these goals. The tax cap is a long-term recipe to underfund our schools and teachers.

Texas AFT is calling on the Legislature to fully fund our school through an increase in state funding that includes sufficient new state funding to provide the quality education our students deserve and for pay and health-care improvements for all educators.

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