Anti-teacher bills advance; TSTA lobby day on Tuesday

Pay cuts for teachers and a bill needed to balance the new, education-slashing state budget advanced in the Senate on Friday, while the House advanced bills to erode teacher employment rights and make it easier for school districts to get waivers from the 22-1 class size cap for kindergarten through fourth grade.

The full Senate gave approval on a party line vote to Senate Bill 1, a fiscal matters bill necessary to balance the new budget. Senators, however, refused to dip any deeper into the Rainy Day Fund to moderate some of the cuts, including reduced funding for school district finance formulas by $4 billion over the next two years. That leaves $6 billion of the taxpayers’ money still sitting, unspent, in the Rainy Day Fund. The bill also contains the mechanism for distributing funds to school districts that was contained in SB 1811 last session. SB 1 now moves to the House. The House Appropriations Committee heard its version of the bill, House Bill 1, on Friday.

SB 2, a supplemental appropriations bill, necessary to implement SB 1 passed and is headed to the House.. An amendment to SB 2 to add additional funds for public education failed on 17-14 vote. The Senate passed SB 6, the instructional materials bill, and it is also on the way to the House.

The Senate Education Committee on Friday approved Senate Bill 8, which would allow school districts to cut teacher pay in two ways. One provision would authorize districts to furlough teachers for as many as six non-instructional days a year and adjust their pay accordingly. Another provision would repeal the teacher salary floor enacted in 2009.

TSTA testified against the bill, but the measure is now headed to the Senate floor for a vote, probably on Monday. Please keep calling your senators to demand they vote AGAINST Senate Bill 8. You can use the toll-free 1-800-260-5444 number.

Remember, next Tuesday (June 7) is TSTA Lobby Day. TSTA will hold briefings at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. in the TSTA building, 316 West 12th Street, a block west of the Capitol, for attendees. Please call TSTA Public Affairs at 877-ASK-TSTA (or email to let us know you are coming.

Senate Bill 8 also would change the date for notification of contract non-renewal from the 45th day before the end of instruction to the 10th day before the end of instruction and would eliminate seniority as a factor for districts to consider when implementing reductions in force. The renewal notification change also would apply to probationary teachers.

Senate Bill 8 was approved on a party line vote. The Republican majority of the committee voted for it. Democrats in the minority voted against it.