It was inevitable that last week’s attacks on schools and teachers by the Dallas ISD school board would be followed by that alltoocommon political affliction – thin skin. It is a malady, sometimes bordering on paranoia, which strikes elected officials who take questionable actions that are overwhelmingly unpopular with their constituents.
Such apparently is the state of Dallas ISD Trustee Edwin Flores, following last week’s board decisions to close 11 neighborhood schools, assign more than 170 teachers to the “excess employee pool” (a bureaucratic term for the first step to the unemployment line) and add 45 minutes, without additional pay, to each surviving teacher’s work day.
According to an item over the weekend in The Dallas Morning News, a Dallas fourth grade bilingual teacher, Joseph Drake, sent Flores an email, protesting, with ample justification, the longer work day. Drake noted that he was the sole income earner for a family of six children, had not had a substantial raise in four years and was tired of being saddled with the school district’s budgetary problems. Drake also listed “nice properties” that he said were owned by Flores, while the teacher was “struggling to pay bills.”
The email was perfectly within the teacher’s rights, but nevertheless he was summoned from his classroom on Friday and ordered to report to the district’s administration building. There, he was handed a letter informing him that he had been placed on administrative leave with pay because of “allegations of potential misconduct.”
If this is the whole story – it is linked at the end of this post – the only potential misconduct is on the part of Flores and/or the DISD administration. State law expressly allows direct communication between school employees and school board members. And last time I checked, teachers were still covered by the First Amendment.
I don’t know if Flores demanded action against Drake or if the administration took it upon itself to violate the teacher’s rights. In any event, if Flores can’t take the heat, he should resign from the board. And, on his way out, he should write a strongly worded letter to the governor and legislative leaders. He should demand that the state adequately and equitably pay for public schools instead of cutting school budgets and encouraging districts to make bad choices.
Most teachers already work longer than the seven, eight or how many hours they are on campus each day. They regularly work extra hours at home – without pay – preparing for class, grading papers, etc. According to a survey TSTA conducted two years ago, teachers were spending an average of 15 hours a week outside of class on schoolrelated work.
Average teacher pay in Texas also is several thousand dollars below the national average, which requires many teachers to take extra jobs to support their families. The same survey showed that 40.8 percent of TSTA members moonlight during the school year. And each member, on average, was spending $564 a year out of his or her own pocket (without reimbursement) on school supplies.
Edwin Flores and his colleagues on the Dallas school board are picking on the wrong people.