By granting tuition exemptions to qualified applicants, the Educational Aide Exemption program has paved the way for many dedicated and talented teacher assistants to attend college and become teachers ready to serve long and productive careers in the classroom. The State Board for Educator Certification has noted that there is an exceptionally high teacher-retention rate for those students who complete the program. This is probably because teacher assistants already have a passion to teach children and are familiar with the classroom environment.
The Educational Aide Exemption program was funded at $28.6 million for the 2010-2011 biennium. But this popular program received no funding for the current biennium, leaving some participants in the middle of their degree program without the assistance they rightly expected to help continue their coursework. Over the past year, Texas AFT has received numerous phone calls from eager and qualified applicants who are seeking a four-year teaching degree in a shortage area and are interested in the program.
Texas AFT strongly believes not only that the state must restore previous funding levels, but also that the state has ample reason to consider a significant increase in funding for the Educational Aide Exemption program.
Texas AFT testified on September 12, 2012 before the Senate Committee on Higher Education in support of funding the Educational Aide Exemption program so dedicated teacher assistants can attend college and become teachers. Join Texas AFT in the fight to save and enhance this valuable program by sending a letter to your lawmakers today!
The letter reads:
I urge you to restore funding for one of the most valuable tools available for recruiting quality teachers for Texas public schoolchildren–the Educational Aide Exemption Program.
Since 1997 the program has opened doors for many teacher assistants to achieve their dream of becoming teachers by allowing them to attend public colleges or universities tuition-free while seeking teacher certification.
Last year the legislature zeroed out funding for the program for 2012-2013, and some participants were left in the middle of their degree program with no scholarship assistance. Additionally, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has not included restoration of funding for this program in its budget request for 2014-15.
The exemption program is well worth the investment, as research shows:
* The State Board for Educator Certification has found an exceptionally high teacher-retention rate among those who complete their degrees and become teachers by this route, mostly because the teacher assistants already have classroom experience and are well equipped to handle the rigors of the profession.
* “Successful Transitions: The Texas Educational Aide Exemption Program” (a study conducted by West Texas A&M University in 2003) found that students in this program tended to be highly motivated and had significant experience in the school setting.
* “Focus on an Untapped Classroom Resource: Helping Paraprofessionals Become Teachers” (a 2003 study from the Southern Regional Education Board), found that more than 80 percent of paraprofessionals who had graduated from the program were still teaching after three years.
Additionally, teacher turnover costs Texas taxpayers millions of dollars each year. A 2000 study commissioned by the State Board for Educator Certification found that conservative estimates put the cost of teacher turnover to Texas school districts at $329 million a year, with some estimates as high as $2 billion. Those costs are much higher in 2012 as teacher turnover continues to rise. So the thousands of teacher assistants who have taken part in the program are valuable additions to a more stable and cost effective public workforce.
Please help address teacher attrition and shortages–while also promoting the recruitment of motivated personnel with classroom experience–by fully funding the Educational Aide Exemption Program in the next legislative session.