Roundtable discussion with the American Federation of Teachers, Houston area school administrators, and the University of Houston and Texas A&M University-Commerce highlights initiatives to retain and recruit qualified educators.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 31, 2022
HOUSTON, Texas — With 43,000 Texas teachers either resigning or retiring since the last school year, and with reports rolling in from districts across Texas with classrooms so crowded that students have run out of desks and supplies, Texas schools are in crisis — but one that can be solved, according to a candid discussion with educators and administrators.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, leaders from the national and Texas American Federation of Teachers hosted a roundtable discussion with area superintendents and experts on solutions to the current staffing crisis in our public schools. The focus of the discussion was an array of practical solutions to the shortage of educators in Texas and beyond, outlined in both a national AFT report and focus groups with Texas teachers, including investing in more “grow-your-own” educator certification programs, raising pay for educators, and reducing extra, non-teaching responsibilities.
“Our members — teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, all of them — want to solve this crisis,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “They want to make every school a place where parents want to send their kids and where kids thrive. And when educators, administrators, and parents work together, what a shock? Kids thrive.”
Among the participants of the roundtable discussion were administrators for several large Harris and Fort Bend County districts:
- Fort Bend
- Galena Park
Participants also included representatives from two universities investing in strategies to recruit and train new educators: the University of Houston with its Accelerated Certification Program and Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Pride Pathways program, an accelerated bachelor’s program for aspiring educators.
“We are proud to partner with Texas AFT to end Texas teacher shortages,” said Dr. Kimberly McLeod, associate vice president for economic and academic development at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
The Texas A&M program focuses on making an education degree accessible to school support professionals like paraprofessionals and bus drivers — people who work in schools already and understand the communities in which they work.
Weingarten said today’s group discussion and ongoing collaboration between districts and superintendents and school employees are creating a “climate of can-do.” Accordingly, several districts highlighted the on-the-ground, local actions they’re taking to retain their educator workforces.
“We raised teacher salaries by 11%, which was huge and historic,” said Jeremy Grant-Skinner, chief talent officer for Houston ISD. “But one of the things that came up today is, how do we make sure we have the state funding necessary to continue?”
The historic raises produced by advocacy from the Houston Federation of Teachers and collaboration with Houston ISD leaders were made possible because of one-time federal relief funding. Grant-Skinner underscored that state action on school funding will be required to make such investments in staffing ongoing and sustainable.
To that point, state Rep. Alma Allen was on hand for the discussion to discuss what must be done at the Texas Legislature next year.
“As your representative, your problem is my problem,” said Allen, a member of the House Public Education Committee. “I want for my grandchildren to have a decent education, and they can’t do that without a teacher in the classroom. We need to pay teachers what they are worth for the work they do.”
With news of a $27 billion surplus in the state budget, all attendees noted the importance of the Texas Legislature spending those dollars on public education, a long-overdue investment in a state that ranks well below the national average in per-student funding of its schools.
“It’s not just about the number. It’s about the will — about the priority,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “Will the priority be our public schools, or will it be tax breaks for the already wealthy? Come January, all of us will have to dig in deeper and work together to save public education for generations of kids to come.”
If you missed the press conference yesterday following the roundtable, you can watch it online.