Pay cut bill approved by Senate; TSTA Lobby Day Tuesday

The Senate on Monday passed Senate Bill 8, which would allow school districts to order teacher furloughs and cut their pay. But senators first amended the bill to require that furloughs and pay cuts apply to all contract personnel, including administrators, and that employees and the public be afforded an opportunity to weigh in on any furlough or salary reduction plan.

The Senate vote was on final passage was 18-12, along party lines, with the 12 Senate Democrats voting against the bill. Now the measure goes to the House.

Remember, tomorrow (Tuesday, June 7) is TSTA Lobby Day. Please come to Austin and tell your legislators to stop the assault on teachers and the public schools. We will have briefings at the TSTA building, 316 W. 12th St., just west of the Capitol, at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Those of you who can’t come to Austin please keep calling your state legislators on the toll-free, 800-260-5444 line.

Senate Bill 8 would allow school districts to cut teacher pay in two ways. It would authorize districts to order furloughs for as many as six non-instructional days a year and reduce pay accordingly. And, it would remove the salary floor enacted in 2009. TSTA opposes the bill and testified against it before the Senate Education Committee last week.

The floor amendment to the bill will require a school district to give all professional staff an opportunity to be involved in developing a furlough or salary reduction plan. A furlough program must subject all contract personnel to the same number of furlough days. The amendment also will require a school board to hold a public hearing and provide information on budget alternatives, such as a property tax increase or use of the district’s available fund balance.

Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill to sunset its furlough and pay cut provisions in August 2013, the end of the next budget period, but that amendment failed.

Senate Bill 8 also would change the deadline for notification of non-renewal of a teacher’s contract from the 45th day to the 10th day before the end of instruction. That change also would apply to probationary teachers who are not rehired. The bill also would remove seniority as a factor to be considered when school districts implement reductions in force.

On Thursday, the legislative focus will turn to the House, which has scheduled debate on two fiscal bills, Senate Bills 1 and 2, necessary to balance the new state budget, and four bills, which would weaken class size standards and attack teacher employment rights.

Those four bills are:

  • House Bill 18 by House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, which would allow school districts to routinely request increases in class sizes in K-4 from 22 to 25 and would require the state education commissioner to automatically grant their requests. This would do away with the current waiver process, which requires school districts to notify parents and hold public hearings on plans to increase class sizes above 22. This would exclude parental participation in the process and weaken an important, long-time standard of educational quality in Texas.
  • House Bill 19 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, which would remove a teacher’s right to a hearing before an independent examiner in cases of mid-year terminations during financial emergencies. It would allow school districts to hire their own lawyers to conduct these hearings, weakening teachers’ procedural safeguards.
  • House Bill 20 by Rep. Dan Huberty of Humble, which would change the deadline for notification of non-renewal of a teacher’s contract from the 45th day before the last day of instruction to 15 days before the last day of instruction. The same change would apply to probationary teachers who are terminated. This change obviously would give laid off teachers less time to find new jobs for the next school year.
  • House Bill 21 by Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth, which would permanently remove seniority as a factor in determining teacher layoffs when districts impose reductions in force. This would remove a valuable protection for Texas’ most experienced and some of its best teachers.

In other action on Monday, the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 30 by Shapiro, which would require a school district or open-enrollment charter school to give students the opportunity to enroll in electronic courses provided through the state virtual school network. The bill also addresses funding of virtual courses through the Foundation School Program. The funding would be based on actual, successful completion of a virtual course. The bill also addresses IDEA concerns for students with special needs taking virtual courses. And, the bill lays out TEKS requirements for courses in the virtual school network.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 31, which would allow certain open-enrollment charter schools that meet financial standards adopted by the state education commissioner to participate in the bond guarantee program. The financial standards require an open-enrollment charter school to have an investment grade credit rating. The bonds are guaranteed by the Permanent School Fund. Both bills are on Thursday’s Senate calendar.

In another hearing Monday, the House Government Efficiency & Reform Committee took testimony on House Bill 17 by Rep. Bill Callegari, which would allow districts to furlough teachers and would repeal the state minimum salary schedule, except for the minimum starting salary. That bill was voted out of committee.

The committee also was still hearing testimony on House Bill 33 by Rep. Sid Miller to divert tax dollars to a private school voucher program. More on this one tomorrow.

TSTA opposes both these bills.