Month: May 2019

Unfortunately, no one will “lavish” a pay raise on teachers

Does anyone know anyone in the teaching profession, at least in Texas, who believes he or she is lavishly paid? Yes, it’s a stupid question.

The reason I ask is because I saw a story in a major Texas newspaper the other day about the state Senate’s so-called “merit” pay proposal. The story said the plan would allow “local school districts to lavish additional salary increases upon the top-ranked teachers.”

Lavish? That’s about as likely as the city of Austin building a subway system.

According to one online dictionary I consulted, the word, “lavish,” when used as a verb, means to “bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities on.” Or, according to another dictionary, “to expend or give in great amounts or without limit.”

When used as an adjective, the word means sumptuous, luxurious, opulent, rich or expensive.

Only in a teacher’s wildest dreams….

The average teacher salary in Texas is $54,122, according to the Texas Education Agency, or $54,155, based on the National Education Association’s calculations.

Compared to other states and the District of Columbia, that pay isn’t even average. It’s $7,600 below average, which is hardly opulent.

Even the $5,000 across-the-board pay increase approved by the Senate would keep Texas teacher pay below average, and that figure may get smaller as the House and the Senate negotiate a final school finance bill.

Merit pay, which TSTA opposes, wouldn’t make any teachers rich either. Instead, if it were tied to test scores, as allowed in the Senate bill, it would keep lavishing millions of dollars on testing companies.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen says he opposes tying merit pay to STAAR scores because the House doesn’t want to increase the emphasis on high-stakes testing. And the House wants to give all school employees – other professional and support staff, in addition to teachers — a raise.

So stay tuned for the final word on educator pay as the House and Senate continue their negotiations. We hope a pay raise will be broad and substantial, but we all know better than to expect anything lavish.

IDEA charters: Where students become customers

This may sound strange, but I want to give Rolando Posada, a regional director for the IDEA charter chain, a little credit, but not for trying to shutter untold numbers of neighborhood public schools in San Antonio and a growing number of other cities.

Posada doesn’t deserve credit for undermining the promise of a free public education for every Texas child, regardless of family circumstances, classroom behavior, academic record or ability to win a lottery. He does deserve some credit, though, for being candid, although it probably was unintentional.

Posada recently was interviewed by Texas Public Radio about IDEA’s plan to double its San Antonio enrollment to nearly 24,000 students, aided and abetted by a $117 million taxpayer grant from U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the country’s top cheerleader for school privatization.

Posada said publicity was good for IDEA because “it draws all sorts of customers.”

Customers? I thought we still called them students. You know, the boys and girls who come to school every day. They are students, and with their parents and educators they form a school community.

To IDEA and other corporate-style charter chains, though, students and their families are customers who feed the bottom line – with our tax dollars. And these tax dollars — $2.2 billion in 2017 alone — are being diverted from under-funded traditional public schools.

Oh sure, charters are technically public schools. But there are distinct differences between charters and the public schools that most of us grew up in and graduated from.

Charters are mainly considered “public” schools because they get tax money. Aside from that, corporate charter chains, such as IDEA, operate like private schools.

They may be organized as non-profits, but many are operated by for-profit management companies, and they love the smell of money that their “customers” bring with them.

They get paid for each student, just like regular public schools do. But your neighborhood public school is operated by a local school board accountable to voters. The people who run corporate charters don’t answer to taxpayers, and some charters are operated by private boards headquartered in other states.

Unlike traditional public schools, which enroll every school-age child who lives in the district and applies, charters can polish their reputations by cherry-picking their “customers.” They don’t have to accept children with disciplinary problems – IDEA tries to avoid them – and they often find ways to exclude children with poor grades and special needs. Just 5 percent of IDEA’s students receive special education services.

And many charter schools require a lottery for admission.

Traditional public schools don’t have lotteries. They just seek waivers from class-size limits or haul in more portable classrooms when demand exceeds capacity.

Charters, overall, don’t perform any better than traditional public schools. Many perform worse. According to Texas Education Agency data from 2012-17, charters in Texas had an overall dropout rate three times that of traditional public schools and overall poorer performance records.

Posada has said his goal is to have an IDEA school less than 10 minutes away from every family In San Antonio. This isn’t the pursuit of educational excellence so much as it is greed for tax dollars. And, in IDEA’s view, the customers – with their backpacks full of taxpayer cash — are there for the picking.