Amidst a busy day around the capitol, the forces behind Texas AFT along with hundreds of teachers all across the state took time out of their spring break to lobby their state legislators and rally on the capitol grounds today.
Senator Wendy Davis and many other local leaders spoke before the crowd, calling attention to the fact that there will be an estimated $12 billion dollars in the Rainy Day Fund towards the end of this year, yet there are no plans within the Republican leadership to use any of the money for school funding, despite cutting $5.4 billion dollars to public education last session. As Katherine reported earlier, Senator Davis, along with Senators Eddie Lucio, Jr. Jose Rodriquez, and Rodney Ellis, filed SB 1377 and 1378 to allocated money from this flushed fund into struggling schools across the state.
Among making up for the cuts last session, and accounting for enrollment growth this time (because the Republican dominated legislature failed to do that last time) a few other lobbying priorities for teachers were among these:
The average pension for teachers is less than $2000 a month, but there are threats to even reducing this. The bare minimum from the state has been put into pensions since 1995, and it's time to increase these contributions from the state so teachers and have the respectable retirement they deserve.
Secure Support Staff:
Support Staff plays a crucial role in the well being of any school and efforts to making their jobs more secure are underway. HB 1154 filed by Representative Mary Gonzalez secures support staff for schools. Under current law staff can be released for any reason and do not need to be given any notice of why they were terminated. This bill gives these crucial support staff employees due process and ensures that a reason is given in writing upon their termination.
End High Stakes Testing:
The burden of testing, which according to one local superintendent takes away 40 days of school each year, is not only evident in the children, but also the teachers. Particularly when state-mandated testing is added with local district benchmarks implemented to avoid "no child left behind," the system is simply exhausting our teachers. While testing starts in 3rd grade, expect to see changes right away at the high school level, and then on down. This effort has the most bi-partisan support among any issue regarding public education so it is hopeful that we will see something by the end of session.