Category Archives: school finance

Taking teachers for granted with a fake pay “raise”

 

The fake teacher “pay raise” bill that the full Senate will vote on this week, perhaps today, is a product of an alternate universe, where trickery trumps reality and inhabitants believe they can take teachers’ votes for granted.

After all, Gov. Abbott, Lt.Gov. Patrick and the Senate majority – the lead inhabitants of this alternate universe — have been ignoring the needs of educators for years, and they are still in Austin.

Maybe that sense of hubris is what promoted Sen. Jane Nelson, the sponsor of the fake pay raise bill, to criticize House members for wanting to dip into the $10 BILLION Rainy Day Fund to pay for a real pay raise for educators. She called that a “false promise” and short-term solution.

So, how do Nelson and Dan Patrick propose “paying” for a pay “raise” for teachers and reducing health care costs for retirees?

First, they would put off a teacher pay raise until 2019 and then try to force local property taxpayers – who already pay for most education funding – to come up with the money. Then, they would use an accounting trick to delay payment to an under-funded health care system to allegedly give retired educators some limited, temporary relief.

The false promise, folks, is coming from the Senate leadership, and apparently the governor approves of the trickery because he hasn’t proposed an additional dime in state funding for teacher pay or education either.

The Rainy Day Fund – it’s the taxpayer’s money, not Dan Patrick’s or Greg Abbott’s – is $10 billion and growing. That is more than enough to raise teacher pay, improve health care for retirees and have lots of money left in the treasury.

It’s a real solution, not a sleight of hand designed to fool people on the eve of an election year.

 

 

Abbott, Patrick trying to hide their true, anti-education colors

 

As I hope most of you have figured out by now, neither Gov. Greg Abbott nor Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has any intention of raising teacher pay or retiree benefits during the special legislative session because neither is proposing any increase in education funding. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Abbott and Patrick have three education-related goals this session, which may prove to be one of the meanest gatherings of the Texas Legislature in recent memory. All three are bad news, and none has anything to do with teacher pay.

First, they want to ridicule and bully transgender students and educators with the discriminatory, divisive and unnecessary bathroom bill. Second, they want to peddle the voucher scam again. And, finally, they will try once more to weaken the political influence of teachers over education policy with a dues deduction bill to thwart the right of educators to spend their modest paychecks – their own money — the way they see fit.

The governor and the lieutenant governor concocted their eleventh-hour “pay raise” schemes for a reason. They are trying to cover their bankrupt public education records on the eve of reelection campaigns in which both will be trying again to fool parents and educators into thinking they actually give a rat’s tail about public schools or the people who work in them.

There are genuine teacher pay raise proposals on the horizon, proposals that actually would use state funds to boost teacher pay. Some legislators believe the state should tap into the Rainy Day Fund to pay for it.

The Rainy Day money is there, more than $10 billion, according to the state comptroller. That’s enough to cover a teacher pay raise, health care improvements and other critical public needs that Abbott and Patrick have persisted in ignoring.

The Rainy Day Fund is a state savings account that was intended to meet emergencies, and school finance, including teacher pay, is a growing emergency. But Abbott and Patrick want to keep your tax money bottled up to use as ideological bragging rights with voters who want to shrink government and privatize education.

Speaker Joe Straus recognizes the importance of increasing public education funding. Straus also opposes the bathroom bill and already is under attack from the Abbott and Patrick camps.

Getting a teacher pay raise or any additional education funding out of this special session will be difficult. If it happens, the push will come from Straus and the House, not from Abbott and Patrick.

 

 

 

Abbott’s alleged teacher pay “raise” is a hoax

 

Texas teachers need and deserve a pay raise, which is why Gov. Greg Abbott tried to make teachers think he was going to push for an annual pay boost of $1,000 during the upcoming special legislative session. But Abbott’s alleged pay plan is a hoax, mainly because he also made it clear that he still doesn’t want the state to spend more money on education.

“Texas doesn’t need to spend more. We just need to spend smarter,” the governor told the media. “The pay increases can easily be achieved by passing laws that re-prioritize how schools spend money, and we can do that without taxpayers spending a penny more.”

Baloney.

Under Abbott’s “plan,” if it actually is a plan, there is no guarantee of a $1,000 pay raise for any teacher.

What the governor really wants to do is squeeze under-funded local school districts – and local property taxpayers – even harder by requiring them to pay for a “merit” pay raise for selected teachers, which could very well come at the expense of other teachers losing their jobs or taking pay cuts and students getting stuck with larger classes. According to one preliminary analysis, only 10 percent of teachers eventually would get a significant salary increase under this scenario, which likely would be carried out only after a two-year study by the education commissioner.

The state instead should invest the resources necessary to attract and retain highly qualified teachers for all Texas students, and those resources should be invested now.

The governor, who may announce for reelection about the time the special session convenes, is mainly dangling the promise of higher teacher pay as a political ploy to try to cover his miserable record on public education.

Average teacher pay in Texas lags $6,300 below the national average, and per-student funding is $2,555 less than the national average. Nothing in Abbott’s proposal would address these deficiencies.

 

Trying to flush school districts down the toilet

 

Graydon Hicks, the superintendent of the small Fort Davis ISD in far West Texas recently wrote an open letter, lambasting Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over the legislative majority’s continuing failure to adequately fund public education.

He detailed how the state’s top two “leaders,” while playing politics with school bathrooms and privatization, are threatening to flush endangered school districts, such as Fort Davis, down the toilet.

In his letter published on the Big Bend Now website, Hicks wrote: “Fort Davis ISD has 235 children, has NO cafeteria, has NO bus routes, has dropped our band program, has eliminated (or not filled) 15 staff positions, has CUT stipends for extra-curricular activities, has FROZEN (or reduced) staff pay for one year, has CUT extra-curricular programs, has NO debt and has increased our local tax rate to the maximum of $1.17 (per $100 valuation) allowed by law.”

“We have nothing left to cut. We have nothing left to reduce,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Austin, Abbott and Patrick continue to stick their noses into kids’ bathrooms, continue to promote the wasting of tax dollars on private school vouchers and are seeking an unnecessary, umpteenth study of school finance instead of tackling the funding issue head-on.

“Quit pontificating about bathrooms,” Hicks wrote. “Quit hiding your intentions behind righteous statements on school vouchers and choice.”

The superintendent then challenged the governor and the lieutenant governor to “come out to our community and face the wrath of our taxpayers and voters….Come explain yourself to our parents and children.”

That’s a nice idea, but it won’t happen because Abbott and Patrick have every reason to think they can continue to take the votes of most Fort Davis voters for granted. And why shouldn’t they?

Abbott took 60 percent of the vote in Jeff Davis County, where Fort Davis ISD is located, in winning the governor’s office in 2014, and Patrick took almost 57 percent. Both defeated Democratic opponents who had far superior records on public education issues. The two handily won majorities not only in Fort Davis but also in many other school districts throughout Texas that now also are being squeezed by Abbott’s and Patrick’s policies.

Elections have consequences for school districts, superintendents and students, and those consequences will be changed only when election outcomes are changed. Abbott and Patrick will be on the ballot again next year. What will the parents, educators and other voters in Fort Davis and other school districts do then?

http://bigbendnow.com/2017/06/correspondence-271/

 

 

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