education

Study Highlights Outcries of Teachers During Pandemic, Union Says

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A national study on public education is giving mediocre marks to the state of Texas.

Scholaroo published the 2022 Student Success Rankings this month. The scholarship and data site reports that this is the first nationwide study to analyze the pandemic's impact on the public school system. 

Texas ranked 26th overall in the nation in providing a good environment for a student to succeed in school and maintain a healthy physical and mental lifestyle.

For context, many northeast states ranked in the top 10.

Scholaroo

The study shows the worst-performing rankings for Texas are in student success and quality, which includes dropout rates, test scores, teacher experience and salaries.

Click here to read more details from the study.

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Alliance AFT, which represents employees in Dallas ISD said it reflects the outcry from teachers throughout the pandemic.

"What we're seeing and hearing what came out in that study is pretty much what we're seeing in hearing in our schools today,” said Rena Honea, president of Alliance AFT.

In a statewide press conference this month, Texas AFT put out a list of demands for the Texas legislature, including establishing better pay for teachers, safer conditions for students and educators during the pandemic and more support in combating learning loss.

The unions said not having those things has led teachers to quit at unprecedented rates and for districts to deal with record teacher shortages.

"This just seems to have taken its toll on so many individuals. And what's very sad to me is that we don't have a lot of people interested in wanting to enter the field of education. They've seen the low pay in Texas that is happening for our teachers,” Honea said.

Honea said another issue is workload. Teachers are burnt out working nights and weekends to keep up.

Unlike other states, there is no law in Texas that allows for something called "collective bargaining rights," which allows teachers to negotiate terms and needs in their contracts to work.

Honea said meeting these needs for teachers is key in supporting students to succeed.

"We have people that are leaving that have been in our schools for years. Not because they're not a good teacher, but they are just physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. And there doesn't seem to be any kind of relief at all," she said.

She also said the unions also want to see a higher state minimum salary set for teachers.

According to the Texas Education Agency, the minimum salary for classroom teachers, full-time librarians, full-time counselors, and full-time registered nurses is currently set to about $33,000 for starting pay. The paytable shows increases with experience.

The minimum has stayed the same for the last four years, up from $28,000 in 2018.

Honea said these lower amounts are common in more rural districts as opposed to the larger districts like Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD, which are each offering highly competitive salaries and bonus incentives for new hires, as well as bonuses for existing employees.

"Not everybody has the dollars to be able to offer higher salaries incentives," said Honea. "Dallas ISD right now is offering any teacher or any person with a bachelor's degree to come into the alternative certification program free of charge. That has never been done in my 40 plus years of education that I'm aware of. It just shows the things that districts are having to do to try to attract people to get them into the districts to work with our students."

With the cost of housing in North Texas skyrocketing and inflation, Honea said the disparity in pay among school districts across the state has led to teachers struggling to buy a home, make rent payments or even afford to keep teaching.

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