House Set to Vote Thursday on “Mandate Relief” at Students’ and Teachers’ Expense

You’ll find posted on the Texas AFT Web site an e-mail letter you can send to your state House member urging opposition to this thoroughly bad bill. Here is the text of that letter. Please send it as early as possible.

“I urge you to vote no on HB 400.

“HB 400 permanently eliminates the 22-to-1 cap on the size of K-4 classrooms, by changing the standard to a district-wide average, which can easily be gamed to increase class sizes. Both this average and a new 25-to-1 cap for individual classrooms also would be subject to waiver. The bill also wipes out special requirements of smaller class sizes for students at risk of failing standardized state tests.

“HB 400 permanently eliminates the state minimum salary schedule for teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians, replacing salary floors with a mandate to districts to institute test-driven ‘performance pay.’

“HB 400 kills teachers’ contract safeguards. It takes away the right to an independent hearing before an impartial hearing examiner for a teacher faced with a mid-contract termination. It deprives term-contract teachers of timely notice of proposed non-renewal, shifting the notice date to the last day of instruction, so teachers must wait five extra, anxious weeks before they know if they are employed for the coming year. Teachers on continuing contracts meanwhile lose one of the main benefits of those contracts: seniority protection in case of layoffs. This is an
engraved invitation to target veteran teachers with the highest salaries for layoffs.

“A temporary revenue crisis is no excuse for permanent repeal of all these educational quality standards and employee safeguards. I urge you to block HB 400 and work instead on limited, temporary measures like emergency class-size waivers based on undue financial hardship and temporary salary adjustments as a substitute for layoffs. Above all, I urge you to work for adequate funding of our public schools to avoid the need for such measures.”

Senate Committee Votes for School-Funding Bill Allocating $4 Billion in Cuts: The Senate Finance Committee voted today for a school-funding bill that cuts state aid to school districts by $4 billion–an average of $400 per pupil annually. It also cuts more than $1 billion in grants to school districts. The bill is SB 22 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano. The best thing going for this bill is that it only does about half the damage contained in the House budget plan. But it still deals out budgetary destruction on a scale never before seen in Texas public education. The vote on the bill was 11 to 4, with the “no” votes coming from Republican Sen. Robert Deuell of Greenville and Democratic Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, John Whitmire of Houston, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo. Whitmire said, “We shouldn’t surrender to the circumstances,” and he called on fellow senators to join him in a push to “find the $4 billion” needed to keep school funding intact.