Month: <span>April 2018</span>

Teacher pay in Texas isn’t “average”


When is “average” not average? It’s when we are talking about teacher pay in Texas. That’s when “average” becomes deficient.

I have seen a couple of references lately about how Texas’ teachers are paid about “average” among the states, the comparison being based on the fact that Texas ranks 29th in average teacher salary, according to the latest survey from the National Education Association. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia pay their teachers more, and 22 states pay their teachers less.

But this ranking is not only mediocre, it also is misleading, as any Texas teacher knows.

Average teacher pay in Texas, in cold, hard numbers, is $53,167. That’s $7,316 below the national average for 2017-18, and that’s worse than mediocre. That’s shameful. And it’s going in the wrong direction.

In 2016-17, teacher pay in Texas ranked 26th, and it was $7,085 below the national average.

Among the 10 most populous states, only Florida and Georgia paid their teachers less than Texas in 2017-18, according to the NEA survey.

Average teacher pay in New York was $83,585; California, $81,126; Pennsylvania, $67,398; Illinois, $65,776; Michigan, $62,702; Ohio, $58,000; and Georgia, $56,329.

Texas teachers need and deserve a raise. But the only way you are going to get one and improve overall state funding for your schools is to show up in large numbers at the polls and vote for state candidates who will give you more than lip service. Vote Education First!



Dan Patrick disputes the truth about his war on education


As the entire education community knows, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his political allies, including Gov. Greg Abbott, declared war on public education a long time ago. And by education community, I don’t mean the pro-voucher and pro-privatization crowd because they are part of Patrick’s army.

Now, stung by recent editorial criticism, the lieuteuant governor is trying to strike back by renewing his war on the truth.

Last week, the San Antonio Express-News published an editorial about the severe financial plight of local school districts, including North East ISD, and laid the blame squarely where it belongs – on state government’s failure to adequately fund public education.

Headlined, “The state’s war on public education hits home,” the editorial pointed out that the state’s share of education funding is projected to fall to 38 percent in the 2018-19 school year, which begins next fall, increasing the school finance load on local property taxpayers.

The newspaper also criticized Patrick for his phony-baloney (my term) proposal to provide property tax “relief” by putting crippling limits on the ability of school boards and other local governments to raise property tax rates for needed services, such as the schools that Patrick and his allies refuse to adequately fund.

Patrick, in a published response emailed to political supporters, struck back. Among other things, he denied that the state’s share of funding had dropped to 38 percent. He called the figure a “myth that continues to be repeated over and over.”

The 38 percent figure, though, is not a myth. It is a projection from the Legislative Budget Board, the budget-writing arm of the Legislature that Patrick co-chairs, of the share of the Foundation School Program that the state will be contributing during the 2018-19 school year. The remainder, 62 percent, will be borne by local property taxpayers. That’s even worse than the current school year, when the state is paying 40 percent and local taxpayers, 60 percent.

The Foundation School Program doesn’t include federal funding. But even with federal funding, according to the Texas Education Agency, the state, as of the 2015-16 school year, was paying only 41 percent of school funding. The federal government was paying 10 percent, and local property taxpayers, 49 percent, the biggest share.

The state’s share of education funding has been slipping and the local share increasing for several years, including the entire time Patrick has been lieutenant governor and Abbott has been governor.

Updated rankings released by the National Education Association this week show that Texas spends $2,300 less per student in average daily attendance than the national average, ranking Texas 36th among the states and the District of Columbia. And average teacher pay in Texas has slipped to 29th, $7,316 below the national average.

“The problem here is the state has done nothing to address its byzantine, antiquated, severely broken, but somehow constitutional, school finance system,” the Express-News wrote in its editorial.

And sitting at the top of that state government are Patrick and Abbott, who keep turning their backs on school children and local property taxpayers.

The only way to remedy that is to vote…and Vote Education First!

The state’s war on public education hits home




School safety may be easy to campaign on, but….


Gov. Greg Abbott used the school safety issue and the fear of gun violence to receive some positive publicity for his reelection campaign during a visit to Nacogdoches the other day. Has Abbott actually done anything to protect schools from gun violence? Not much. But in the political game that doesn’t always matter. Or so Abbott hopes.

Perception often trumps reality in politics, and the governor projected a positive perception during a locally televised public appearance in which he was asked what he was doing to keep kids safe at school.

“It’s imperative that the State of Texas do everything that we can to make sure that our schools are as safe as possible,” Abbott said.

He apparently reminded his audience that in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school tragedy, he ordered the Texas School Safety Center, based at Texas State University in San Marcos, to make sure that schools across Texas are compying with school security plans.

What he didn’t tell the parents and other voters in Nacogdoches though was that last year he signed a budget that cut the School Safety Center’s budget by 30 percent, restricting the center’s ability to do its job of providing school districts with security training, resources and technical assistance.

And he didn’t remind the folks in Nacogdoches that he and his legislative allies continue to under-fund their public schools, making it difficult for some school officials to do everything they would like to do to keep their students and employees safe.

Abbott instead has proposed that more schools arm their teachers. That would sell more guns, and some people would like that, but it wouldn’t be doing, as the governor would say, “everything that we can to make sure that our schools are as safe as possible.”

And arming teachers is not a meaningful answer for the thousands of students, parents and educators who this week will continue their demonstrations against gun violence.

Gov. Abbott talks school safety at legislative summit in Nacogdoches



Spreading lies about teachers and education funding


It was inevitable, about as inevitable as Donald Trump spewing his next lie. Super-wealthy rightwingers who don’t care about public education, except what they can squeeze from it, have organized a campaign of lies against teachers who have been participating in strikes and other demonstrations against the pitiful state of education funding in their states.

The Guardian published a story this week about a “messaging guide” put together to try to turn public sentiment against the teachers and their cause. According to the Guardian, the rightwingers are trying to portray the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and children.

One of the sponsors of this drivel is the Walton Family Foundation, whose benefactors, the family that brought us Walmart, has enriched itself by under-paying thousands of the low-income parents they now purport to care so much about. Other sponsors include the Koch brothers and the billionaire DeVos family, which, like the Walton Foundation, view public schools as privatization opportunities to be harvested, not pathways to success for the children they pretend to champion.

The DeVos family, of course, includes Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education intent on privatizing every school in sight.

All these people are also very anti-union.

The anti-teacher message developers admit that it is “challenging” to deny the fact that schools in many states are in poor financial shape. That’s because the same people who are now attacking the teachers engineered tax cuts that created the funding crises, and that was their intent. Cut funding from public schools, declare them failures and then move in and privatize them.

In the end, all children, including children from low-income families suffer, and profiteers profit.

This is what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his allies have been trying to do in Texas for years. They claim to want to help low-income children with vouchers and corporate charters. But they cut state funding for neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of these children will continue to be educated in overcrowded, under-equipped classrooms. And they force teachers to waste their students’ learning time with preparations for standardized tests.

The privatization people, not coincidentally, are the same people who have been trying to intimidate Texas educators from voting in this year’s elections, and they may be doing the same thing in other states.

Teacher protests are an important step in the fight to save public education from privatization, but the battle ultimately will be won through elections. That is why it is critical that educators turn out in large numbers in this election year and vote for one issue and one issue only – public education.

Vote Education First!