AFT Leaders Meet with Houston Area School Admins, Discuss Solutions to the Educator Shortage

A-F-T leaders sit in U-shaped table around a projector screen in a conference room to discuss the issues at hand.

With 43,000 Texas teachers either resigning or retiring since the last school year and with widespread reports of classrooms so crowded that students have run out of desks and supplies, Texas schools are in crisis — but one that can be solved. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, leaders from AFT, Texas AFT, and several local AFT unions hosted a roundtable discussion with Houston area superintendents, administrators, and experts (including Rep. Alma Allen) on solutions to the current staffing crisis. 

​​“Our members — teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, all of them — want to solve this crisis,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT president. “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.”  

Participants discussed 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: 

Invest in “Grow-Your-Own” Educator Certification Programs

  • We need to work on retaining educators, but we also need to recruit new qualified educators in a pipeline that has been drying up for years. 
  • At the event, representatives from the University of Houston discussed its accelerated certification program designed to get more well-trained educators into classrooms quickly. 
  • Dr. Kimberly McLeod from Texas A&M University-Commerce also joined the discussion to highlight the Pride Pathways program, an accelerated bachelor’s degree program. The goal of the program is to give current paraprofessionals and support staff an affordable, online, and manageable way to get their degree and pursue certification. 

Raise Pay for Educators

  • As you can see from our map of local wage wins, our union has made wages that reflect the worth of our work a priority this year. 
  • Jeremy Grant-Skinner, chief talent officer for Houston ISD, spoke about the historic 11% pay raise implemented in partnership with the Houston Federation of Teachers, but he took pains to note that the raise was made possible because of federal COVID-19 relief funding. 
  • Everyone in attendance agreed that without additional state funding, districts cannot guarantee further investments in staff. We’re grateful that Rep. Alma Allen was on hand to discuss the need for continued advocacy from school employees, administrators, and parents on allotting the state’s $27 billion surplus to public education. 

Reduce Extra, Non-Teaching Responsibilities 

  • AFT leaders brought up the crushing amounts of paperwork, data collection, and non-teaching responsibilities that have been heaped on educators. 
  • We know vacant positions are only adding extra duties to plates and imperiling duty-free lunches and planning and prep time. 

70 Texas AFT members have signed up to join our working conditions task force, which will meet 5 times this fall and discuss local and legislative actions needed on paperwork reduction and uncompensated work, class sizes, and defined workdays and duties. If you would like to join the task force before it meets Sept. 14, sign up with our online form.