The House Public Education Committee had a hearing on teacher compensation yesterday and heard from TSTA and other teacher groups. Education Commissioner Mike Morath was there too, officially wringing his hands over low teacher pay and high teacher turnover. (Yes, there is a connection.)
Thirty years ago, Morath told lawmakers, the average Texas teacher had 15 years’ experience. Now, most teachers you are likely to encounter are only in their first or second year in the classroom. And most college graduates are choosing other professions.
The solution, he proposed, was to pay a handful of the “best” teachers more, ignoring the fact that all Texas teachers, except for maybe a few high school football coaches, are underpaid.
On average, Texas teachers are paid $7,300 a year less than the national average, a gap that is growing wider, and you don’t cure that by forcing the so-called “cream of the crop” to jump through more STAAR hoops for a pay raise.
Moreover, almost 40 percent of those Texas teachers who haven’t given up on their professions are taking extra jobs during the school year to make ends meet, as TSTA’s latest moonlighting survey points out.
And it is not just teacher pay that is lagging. The state also under-funds school districts for basic school supplies and other educational needs. Teachers also are shelling out an average of $738 of their own money on school supplies each year, providing what amounts to a $250 million annual subsidy for the elected state officials who are neglecting their duty to adequately fund public education.
Next week, the attention will be diverted from teachers as Morath unveils the first A-F letter grades for school districts, which will be largely based on STAAR test scores and do nothing to improve teacher compensation or give one additional school child a greater opportunity to succeed.
The A-F grades are designed instead to give political cover to the governor, the lieutenant governor and their legislative allies who persist in shortchanging public schools, students and educators. They will use low grades to blame under-funded school districts and teachers – instead of themselves — for “failing” their students. And it will get worse next year when the letter grades are assigned to individual schools.
The real culprits who deserve an accountability kick are the officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who persist in over-testing students and under-funding their schools and their teachers. Remember that on Election Day and Vote Education First!