March 10, 2023: The Bill Filing Deadline; Working Conditions in the Teacher Vacancy Report
Publish Date: March 11, 2023 2:40 pm Author: Texas AFT
Friday, March 10, 2023
This week is National School Social Worker Week, and we should all take a moment to lift up these employees who help our kids face some of their toughest challenges. We know students bring a lot with them to school every day, that’s why having dedicated social workers and mental health professionals is so critical to support them.
That’s why it’s also so important to remember this week that too many Texas children do not have supportive social workers at their schools. A 2022 Houston Chronicle investigation found that just four Texas school districts met the standard of 250 students per social worker recommended by the National Association of Social Workers.
Yet another consequence of Texas — the state with the world’s ninth-largest economy — funding its public schools at $18 billion less than the national average.
Remember that when certain politicians make promises to “fully fund” public schools while also defunding them through voucher scams.
In this week’s Hotline:
We take a deeper dive into the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force report, looking at its recommendations on improving working conditions.
You should be concerned about what state leaders and voucher proponents are saying behind closed doors. Every leak paints an ugly picture.
Today is the last day for legislators to file bills for this session (🙏). We highlight a few good (and not-so-good) bills filed this week.
For Women’s History Month, we honor a giant of the Texas labor movement and a fascinating Corpus Christi ISD educator.
— Texas Education Agency
What’s in the Teacher Vacancy Task Force Report? Working Conditions
Just like our Texas Needs Teachers report from earlier this year, the TVTF report identified unsustainable working conditions as the top reason that teachers are leaving the profession. All the planning, paperwork, copying, grading, and parent communication has taken its inevitable toll.
The first of the task force recommendations is for the state to fund a comprehensive teacher time study with the goal of streamlining teachers’ duties. If conducted, the results would be publicly available to inform future policy. While we support a data-driven analysis of this problem, we already know what some of the solutions are. A time study must not be used as an excuse for short-term inaction. Our teachers and counselors need relief from their workloads now. Which is why we support hiring sufficient support staff — and retaining them by paying a respectful wage — so that classroom teachers are not saddled with extra duties unrelated to teaching.
The next recommendation is really for counselors and administrators. The report supports the development of a technical assistance network to provide support to school administrators on designing strategic schedules that focus on reducing non-instructional tasks and increasing time for planning, as well as peer-to-peer collaboration and completing required training during the school day.
The last recommendation in this area is for the state to design and support “strategic staffing models.” This strategy is not fully explained in the report, so we will closely monitor future communications on this point.
In the past several weeks, a flurry of stories have surfaced with leaked private statements from politicians, voucher proponents, and the odd Texas Education Agency official. In each case, the recorded parties have been caught confirming the worst fears of public education advocates vehemently opposing school privatization.
The latest such incident features Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has previously and proudly declared he’s “all in” on privatization no matter how many special sessions it might take. On Wednesday, Patrick spoke at the Texas Business Leadership Council’s Spring Meeting & Policy Summit.
As Texas Signal reports, Patrick’s remarks included a promise to “pass a parental rights bill,” as well as comments on the topic of classroom safety, after which he noted a need to “get the thugs out of the classroom.” Patrick did not elaborate on exactly who the “thugs” in question were, but there is no context in which the use of a coded racial slur is appropriate in referring to students or educators.
If the lieutenant governor would like to have a genuine conversation about student behavioral challenges, we are all for it. In the years since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have heard increasing reports of escalating disruptions and violence in our classrooms, with many members reporting they themselves have been attacked. The solutions to these problems are many (e.g., increased hiring of counselors and mental health professionals, supporting teachers who exercise their rights to remove disruptive students from the learning environment), and all involve greater state funding for our public schools.
Priority Education Bills Filed Before Legislative Deadline
Today marks the last day to file bills for the current legislative session. This week alone, more than 1,000 bills were filed. Of the bills filed this week, several are considered “priority” legislation, meaning that they have the approval of the lieutenant governor or the speaker of the House. These priority bills, many of which relate to public education, are likely to move through the legislative process quickly.
Many of these bills are very detailed and comprehensive, proposing key changes to several important policies. These priority bills certainly are not guaranteed to pass, and even if they do, they likely will be amended from their current versions. In future Hotlines, we will look more in depth at this priority legislation, but here are some to watch:
HB 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), which would require an armed guard to be located on every public school campus and would reorganize the Texas School Safety Center.
HB 11 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), which would provide teachers with a pay increase and comprehensively reform the educator certification system. HB 11 would remove the elected State Board of Education’s (SBOE) veto authority over rules made by the appointed State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC). HB 11 would slightly increase the school funding via the basic allotment.
HB 100 by Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), which would require that public schools be funded based on enrollment, instead of attendance, for most allotments. The bill would also increase special education funding.
HB 600 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), which would provide retired educators with a TRS cost-of-living adjustment. The TRS COLA would be tiered, so longer-retired individuals, who have had inflation reduce the buying power of their pension more, would benefit from a larger adjustment. The bill would also increase employee contributions to TRS. TRS retirees older than 70 would receive a one-time supplemental check of $5,000. TRS would also create a system for providing ongoing automatic COLAs, depending on whether the pension fund meets investment goals.
‘You can’t have a democracy without educating citizens. And not just the citizens who can afford it.’ AFT President Randi Weingarten was in Austin this week to participate in a SXSW Edu panel, Why Democracy Requires Public Education.
Texas AFT Celebrates Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month, an important time for educators and students to celebrate the achievements, brilliance, and legacies of the women who transformed society and paved the road for the struggle for equality that continues today.
Each week of Women’s History Month, Texas AFT will highlight a Texan woman from our communities and current or retired Texas school employees, all nominated by our local leaders.
We believe to #TeachTheTruth, we must recognize and lift up the contributions of the wonderfully diverse population of our state, our country, and our world.
For more ways to bring Women’s History Month into the classroom, check out the free lesson plans and resources available to AFT members through Share My Lesson.
Linda Bridges was a lifelong labor leader who became president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, a position she served in until her death in 2015. Bridges’ attitude and commitment to the cause can be best summed up in one of her most memorable moments. In the wake of severe cuts to public education funding and thousands of teacher layoffs, Bridges was asked by a reporter at the Capitol why Texas AFT continued to show up at the Legislature and rally its members to fight for a seemingly hopeless cause. Her reply was quick and simple: “Because our kids are worth it.”
Nominated by Nancy Vera, president of the Corpus Christi Federation of Teachers
“Education is your freedom.” That is the mantra Martha Sauceda lives by, and those words guide her work as a proud member and executive board member with the Corpus Christi Federation of Teachers.
Born and raised in Beeville, Sauceda left after high school graduation to accept a job as a custodian at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Since then, she has earned an education degree and has taught for 23 years. Currently, Sauceda teaches fifth-grade math and science at Lorenzo de Zavala Special Emphasis Elementary School.
Nominated by Nancy Vera, president of the Corpus Christi Federation of Teachers
Bloom your classroom with Horace Mann’s $10,000 DonorsChoose giveaway! Enter your DonorsChoose project from March 6 – April 7 for your chance to win. Every day from April 3 – 7, Horace Mann will draw winners and fund at least $2,000 in DonorsChoose projects! Enter online.
Texas education news from around the state that’s worth your time
📺‘Uncertainty looms’: Houston ISD braces for possible state takeover.Houston ISDSuperintendent Millard House II said “uncertainty looms” regarding the state takeover, but he focused on celebrating recent improvements at Texas’ largest school district. In the last 19 months, HISD has made academic strides reducing the number of its campuses with a D or F rating from 50 to 10.(ABC 13, March 5)
🎧‘Where Woke Goes to Die.’ Really? Scott Braddock, editor of The Quorum Report, and Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News political writer Jeremy Wallace discuss the politics of the school voucher fight, along with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s crusade against diversity, equity, and inclusion. (Texas Take, March 4)
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