Governor Abbott: Represent Texas Public Schools Fairly
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What are the educational concerns coming into the 2019 Legislative session?
Teachers are used to doing more with less, but recent years have brought on larger classes, fewer resources, and increasing demands to improve test scores, all shadowed by a pervasive lack of respect for teachers and school staff as professionals. As teachers and school professionals strive to build relationships and reach children, working because of a passion for our content and for our students, budget constrictions and a misplaced focus on standardized testing are making our jobs increasingly stressful and impossible to balance. Houston teachers and public schools deserve fair representation in the legislature, including the passage of specific legislation that will increase salaries, provide adequate funding for schools (thus allowing for smaller classes, better resources, and more help for at-risk students), and protection for public schools as a community asset.
As a new legislature prepares to take up school finance and other issues that affect public schools such as property tax caps, Houston teachers must be alert to possible negative effects to our public school system such as:
- Further implementation of outcome-based raises, furthering discord and unequal pay for teachers.
- Continuing wage stagnation, as Texas teacher pay lags behind the national average and Texas ranks 29th in the country for teacher wages.
- School takeovers under HB1842, passed in 2015
- Capping property tax values, with possible revenue loss for public schools
- Continued deep cuts to campuses and teacher-positions due to “Robin Hood” (Recapture) policy
- Increasing charter enrollment taking students from the public system, impacting school finance variables
State legislators have released competing plans for how to inject more money into public education, showing a laudable desire to make school finance a priority. While calls for raises, increases to spending on at-risk populations, and proposals to compensate teachers one time for classroom expenditures are good steps, they are not enough.
Why are these things concerns? Why should teachers speak up?
Bills such as HB 1842 and the Recapture bill continue to wreak havoc on our district. HB 1842 threatens the takeover of our district, while Recapture takes a higher and higher toll on our funds. Teachers and support staff are experiencing wage stagnation, as benefits are cut and salary schedules fail to keep up with our levels of experience, education, and the cost of living. The new legislature has promised to take up the question of school finance, and the Governor has publicly mentioned possible proposals to give teachers raises based on performance. As the legislature gears up, eyes are on Houston ISD and Texas public schools.
Houston ISD teachers and communities need to let the new legislature know where our priorities lay and how WE want them to care for public school in Texas. Houston teachers must lay out a coherent, specific vision for the future of our schools.
Tell the 2019 Texas State Legislature to support the following positions during the new session:
Repeal HB 1842 (State Takeover)
- This 2015 law requires state takeover (or closure) if only 1 school does not meet the state's arbitrary bar 5 years in a row.
- There is no evidence across the country that state takeover would improve student learning. If the state takes over HISD, it will be the first time in US History that a state takes over a school district based on standardized test scores.
- The Texas Tribune recently published a summary of research showing that STAAR tests ask students to read up to two levels above grade level-- and now these tests are being used to punish and close schools under HB1842.
Public School Finance
Compensation: Support raises and affordable and robust benefits for teachers AND support staff. Revise proposed bills such as HB3 to include school support staff such as librarians,counselors, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals.
Clean teacher raise. Oppose tying teacher raises to STAAR performance. HB3, which provides $5,000 for all classroom teachers must be across the board and not tied to performance.
Adjust the school funding formulas to increase the state share so that we put more money into public education. This should include either completely abolishing Robin Hood (Chapter 41) or creating serious revisions to cost of education index last revised in 1992. This should positively impact property rich districts with large numbers of students in poverty and still provide a safety net for property poor school districts with large numbers of students in poverty.
Oppose "outcome-based" school funding that ties funding to student performance. This is a "persecute the poor" plan and should be opposed in all of its forms.
Oppose the governor's plan that caps property tax values and does not provide a source of revenue for public school funding.Increase the weights (adjustment above basic allotment) for students who are at risk, socio-economically disadvantaged, Sp Ed, and ELL whose cost of education is higher than the allotment.
Support a two year charter expansion moratorium.
It’s time for the Texas Legislature to enact a two-year TIME OUT on charter school expansion so that Texas can address the financial impact of charter schools on traditional public schools and develop a thoughtful, fair, and equitable plan that ensures the future of public education for all Texas children and levels the playing field for all public schools.
High Stakes Testing
Support HB 736 which eliminates the use of STAAR as a promotion standard in elementary and middle school grades and eliminates the use of STAAR as a graduation standard. In addition, support development of more holistic assessments for promotion or accountability measures.
Oppose the A-F School Accountability System as discriminatory against brown and black schools and schools in poverty.
Reduce the number of standardized tests to no more than are required by the federal government and end the high stakes associated with the tests.
Support legislation that reduces the school to prison pipeline.
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