Category Archives: voting and elections

Teachers deserve real appreciation — now, next week and beyond

 

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, a reminder of the important work that teachers do every day, work that is vital to their students, to their communities and to everyone’s future.

Teachers will appreciate the special works of art, the gift cards, the lunches and the heart-felt words of appreciation they will receive from their students, parents and principals.

But Texas teachers deserve more. They also deserve appreciation from their governor and legislators, and I am not talking about the hollow, suitable-for-framing proclamations that amount to little more than a pat on the head.

I am talking about real appreciation.

Real appreciation, as in a meaningful pay raise that will make up much of the $7,300 deficit below the national average.

Real appreciation, as in more state funding for their classrooms and students, who now lag $2,300 below the national average in financial resources.

Real appreciation, as in less standardized testing for their students and more time for teachers to do what they do best – teach.

Real appreciation, as in less intrusion from self-styled education “reformers” and more input from the real experts, the teachers, in the setting of education policy.

Every week needs to be Teacher Appreciation Week, at the statehouse as well as the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is covered, but the statehouse remains a challenge for teachers, parents and everyone else who truly values public education.

I hope Texas teachers enjoy the genuine tokens of appreciation they will receive next week from their students and parents. Then I hope they all will send a message to the statehouse on Election Day – a message that clearly spells out what real teacher appreciation means.

Vote Education First!

 

Teacher pay in Texas isn’t “average”

 

When is “average” not average? It’s when we are talking about teacher pay in Texas. That’s when “average” becomes deficient.

I have seen a couple of references lately about how Texas’ teachers are paid about “average” among the states, the comparison being based on the fact that Texas ranks 29th in average teacher salary, according to the latest survey from the National Education Association. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia pay their teachers more, and 22 states pay their teachers less.

But this ranking is not only mediocre, it also is misleading, as any Texas teacher knows.

Average teacher pay in Texas, in cold, hard numbers, is $53,167. That’s $7,316 below the national average for 2017-18, and that’s worse than mediocre. That’s shameful. And it’s going in the wrong direction.

In 2016-17, teacher pay in Texas ranked 26th, and it was $7,085 below the national average.

Among the 10 most populous states, only Florida and Georgia paid their teachers less than Texas in 2017-18, according to the NEA survey.

Average teacher pay in New York was $83,585; California, $81,126; Pennsylvania, $67,398; Illinois, $65,776; Michigan, $62,702; Ohio, $58,000; and Georgia, $56,329.

Texas teachers need and deserve a raise. But the only way you are going to get one and improve overall state funding for your schools is to show up in large numbers at the polls and vote for state candidates who will give you more than lip service. Vote Education First!

 

 

School safety may be easy to campaign on, but….

 

Gov. Greg Abbott used the school safety issue and the fear of gun violence to receive some positive publicity for his reelection campaign during a visit to Nacogdoches the other day. Has Abbott actually done anything to protect schools from gun violence? Not much. But in the political game that doesn’t always matter. Or so Abbott hopes.

Perception often trumps reality in politics, and the governor projected a positive perception during a locally televised public appearance in which he was asked what he was doing to keep kids safe at school.

“It’s imperative that the State of Texas do everything that we can to make sure that our schools are as safe as possible,” Abbott said.

He apparently reminded his audience that in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school tragedy, he ordered the Texas School Safety Center, based at Texas State University in San Marcos, to make sure that schools across Texas are compying with school security plans.

What he didn’t tell the parents and other voters in Nacogdoches though was that last year he signed a budget that cut the School Safety Center’s budget by 30 percent, restricting the center’s ability to do its job of providing school districts with security training, resources and technical assistance.

And he didn’t remind the folks in Nacogdoches that he and his legislative allies continue to under-fund their public schools, making it difficult for some school officials to do everything they would like to do to keep their students and employees safe.

Abbott instead has proposed that more schools arm their teachers. That would sell more guns, and some people would like that, but it wouldn’t be doing, as the governor would say, “everything that we can to make sure that our schools are as safe as possible.”

And arming teachers is not a meaningful answer for the thousands of students, parents and educators who this week will continue their demonstrations against gun violence.

Gov. Abbott talks school safety at legislative summit in Nacogdoches

 

 

Spreading lies about teachers and education funding

 

It was inevitable, about as inevitable as Donald Trump spewing his next lie. Super-wealthy rightwingers who don’t care about public education, except what they can squeeze from it, have organized a campaign of lies against teachers who have been participating in strikes and other demonstrations against the pitiful state of education funding in their states.

The Guardian published a story this week about a “messaging guide” put together to try to turn public sentiment against the teachers and their cause. According to the Guardian, the rightwingers are trying to portray the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and children.

One of the sponsors of this drivel is the Walton Family Foundation, whose benefactors, the family that brought us Walmart, has enriched itself by under-paying thousands of the low-income parents they now purport to care so much about. Other sponsors include the Koch brothers and the billionaire DeVos family, which, like the Walton Foundation, view public schools as privatization opportunities to be harvested, not pathways to success for the children they pretend to champion.

The DeVos family, of course, includes Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education intent on privatizing every school in sight.

All these people are also very anti-union.

The anti-teacher message developers admit that it is “challenging” to deny the fact that schools in many states are in poor financial shape. That’s because the same people who are now attacking the teachers engineered tax cuts that created the funding crises, and that was their intent. Cut funding from public schools, declare them failures and then move in and privatize them.

In the end, all children, including children from low-income families suffer, and profiteers profit.

This is what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his allies have been trying to do in Texas for years. They claim to want to help low-income children with vouchers and corporate charters. But they cut state funding for neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of these children will continue to be educated in overcrowded, under-equipped classrooms. And they force teachers to waste their students’ learning time with preparations for standardized tests.

The privatization people, not coincidentally, are the same people who have been trying to intimidate Texas educators from voting in this year’s elections, and they may be doing the same thing in other states.

Teacher protests are an important step in the fight to save public education from privatization, but the battle ultimately will be won through elections. That is why it is critical that educators turn out in large numbers in this election year and vote for one issue and one issue only – public education.

Vote Education First!

 

 

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