Texas teachers and schools need our help

Posted in Around The State, Education, Hutto, Public Schools, Teachers, The Budget at 11:15 am by wcnews

The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) is calling on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session of the Texas legislature, Teachers seek special session to stop school cuts.

Gov. Rick Perry should call Texas legislators back to the Capitol for a special session to spare more public school cuts next year now that the economic recovery is producing more revenue than expected, a teachers group said Wednesday.

The state ended the 2011 budget year with a $1.1 billion surplus, Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, noted and the current budget cycle is expected to produce another $1.6 billion surplus.

Perry should ask lawmakers to tap into the state’s $7.3 billion rainy day fund to avoid more school layoffs and larger class sizes next year, Howard and Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker said.

The Republican-controlled Legislature last year cut $5.4 billion from public education for the current two-year budget, which forced school districts to cut about 32,000 school employees, including 12,000 teachers, Haecker said.

More than 8,200 elementary classes are larger than the cap set by state law.
“It is time to stop the bleeding and stop the cuts, now,” she said.

There’s little likelihood that Perry will call legislators into a special legislative cuts to spare more school cuts next year.

“There are no plans to call a special session on this or any other issue. Thanks to Gov. Perry’s fiscally conservative leadership Texas has a balanced budget and has increased funding to Texas public schools by billions of dollars,” Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said.

Of course it’s unlikely. Because defunding public education has been part of the GOP’s plan for decades. But the TSTA is asking for our help and we can start by signing this petition.  The job loss numbers com from this recent report, How Did State Budget Cuts ImpactSchool District Staffing Levels: Preliminary Information from 2011?12.

Locally these cuts are having devastating effects in Hutto, Hutto officials weigh possible budget cuts.

HISD officials also want to raise money for the district by possibly charging a transportation fee for students riding a bus to school. By charging $100 per semester per student, or $50 for students qualifying for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, the district can raise approximately $150,000. The district will cap the amount for families who have more than two children at $200 per semester, Boswell said.

District officials could increase the newly instituted extracurricular fee for students competing in middle school and high school University Interscholastic League events. The current fees are charged on a sliding scale starting with a $25 yearly fee for a student to participate in unlimited activities. Students qualifying for federal reduced lunch programs are charged $12.50 and for students on free lunch the fee is $2.50.

These extracurricular fees could increase to $100 for the average student, $50 for students qualifying for reduced-price lunch programs and $25 for student qualifying for free-lunch programs.

Tier Two cuts total approximately $345,000 and include such measures as eliminating some custodians and transportation workers, and two elementary art and music positions.

Tier Three cuts total approximately $834,000 and include such measures as cross country and powerlifting to become self-sufficient sports, eliminating two band assistant positions and eliminating four elementary receptionist positions.

Tier One through Three cuts total approximately $1.9 million.

And, of course, all these cuts and fees will exact much more pain on working and middle class families.

Perry’s appointee to the Texas Education Agency Robert Scott made some news yesterday as well, Texas Schools Chief’s Remarks on Testing Draw Backlash.

Some high-profile members of the education community aren’t pleased with Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott’s speech on Tuesday criticizing the role of testing in Texas public schools.

Speaking to 4,000 school officials at the Texas Association of School Administrators’ annual midwinter conference, Scott received a standing ovation when he called for an accountability system that measured “what happens on every single day in the life of a school besides testing day.” He also said that he would not certify a ban on social promotion next year unless schools received more money from the state to offer remedial classes to students.

Uncertainty about student performance on the rigorous new state STAAR exams has caused concern across the state as schools also grapple with a $5 billion-plus reduction in state funding that lawmakers enacted during the last legislative session.

“I think he owes all of the legislators an explanation of his comments,” said state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, a chief architect of the legislation that created STAAR. Shapiro, the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said she was “blown away” by the commissioner’s remarks in light of his repeated testimony during the legislative session that schools would have enough money to move forward with STAAR.

“That’s a direction I’ve never heard him take,” she said, adding, “He’s been the one that’s been talking about school accountability over the years. We’ve all been a part of this. School accountability is something we started many, many years ago, and we believe in it.”

Teaching to a test is not accountability. Most people know that we can’t treat our children, students, can’t be treated like widgets. And how a person is being educated is much more subjective than how someone does on a standardized test. That’s why we need quality teachers and a strong public education system.

Further Reading:
Texas’ starving school districts lawyer up for (another) epic battle for survival.
Don’t go counting school finance lawsuit money yet.


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