Two From The Texas Federation of Teachers (HB 1 & Vouchers)

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Public Schools, The Budget, Vouchers at 2:10 pm by wcnews

Two bulletins from the Texas Federation of Teachers (TFT) this week point to a couple of items to take action on. First, they express their disappointment with the budget that passed out of the Appropriations Committee this week that will be debated next week.

That’s why HB 1, the budget bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee today and now on its way to the House floor, is so disappointing. The budget proposal does not increase per-pupil funding for schools at all. This zero-increase budget comes at a time when our schools still remain below the per-pupil funding level reached in 2002, in real dollars adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the legislature keeps adding demands on our schools to raise achievement levels for an ever more challenging population of high-need students. This fundamental defect alone would justify calling on legislators to rewrite this budget (click here to take action), but here is a short list of other major flaws that need fixing:

  • The proposed House budget fails to restore the $1,000 health-care stipend for school employees that was chopped in half in 2003.
  • There’s no across-the-board pay raise for teachers in this bill, leaving average teacher pay lagging far below the national average and far below pay for comparable knowledge and skills in the private sector.
  • Yet this budget plan throws nearly $600 million-roughly enough to finance a $2,000 pay raise across the board–into an unproven, untrustworthy program of “performance incentive” bonuses sure to leave the vast majority of educators empty-handed.
  • Funding in HB 1 also falls well short of need for proven educational programs like pre-kindergarten and the Student Success Initiative.

If this wasn’t bad enough the Appropriations Committee left billions of dollars on the table and those dollars will not be allowed to be part of the debate next week.

The other issue they inform us on is that the Autism voucher bill (SB 1000) is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. From the TFT bulletin:

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, on SB 1000 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano, the bill to provide private-school vouchers for parents of students with autism. But transferring public funds to unaccountable private schools is not going to improve educational services for students with autism. The right way to improve education for all students with autism is through added training and resources within our public schools, as provided by a package of more than a dozen other bills filed this session. One bill in that package, also up for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, is SB 840 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Democrat of Brownsville, providing stipends for teachers and paraprofessionals to attend training institutes. SB 840 is modeled after the highly successful reading academies for teachers that were used to disseminate up-to-date research and methods on reading instruction a few years back.

Again they would like us to take action. Unfortunately it’s hard to see this bill as anything other that the pro-voucher crowd’s latest attempt to slip vouchers under the door. Obviously if we just prioritized, funded, and supported training educators in our public schools to teach autistic students there would be no need for vouchers. Just like if we prioritized, funded, and supported the public education system in Texas as a whole. See how that works?

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