No Texas Teacher Left Behind

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Power Without Conscience

 

          Power is a mighty thing. In the hands of good, just, and moral people, it can improve society for all socio-economic classes of citizens. In the hands of the Texas legislature and governor, it has dealt devastating blows to people who least can afford to challenge the wrongdoing. We who are still governed by a conscience bowed in shame when the legislators proposed taking the $500 health benefit from school employees not protected by the state minimum salary schedule. Now we learn they robbed the fund designated to assist with electric bills to bolster the Medicaid fund. Do these people have no compassion for the poor among us? Where is the conscience that directs the course of action of a great man or woman?

          They do understand the "me-first-syndrome," since they had no qualms about improving their financial situation both in the present and in their retirement years. Someone must teach these self-centered people a lesson, and who is better qualified to teach than the educators of Texas? We must rise to the occasion and teach what might be the most important lesson of our careers.  I encourage each one of you to start planning that lesson today, gather the resources (i. e. registered voters) to teach it, and present that lesson at the Texas polls. The results will be exemplary! We can do this if we unite. Visit and join our movement today.

Martha Wright, Kilgore

Thanks to Martha Wright for submitting her thoughts about some of the recent bills introduced.
 
          How about our state legislature and governor? They finally managed to get active teachers and retired teachers pitted against one another. Even the state teacher organizations fell for their scheme. It seems that to do something positive for retired teachers, the active teachers would have to foot the bill, or to do something positive for active teachers, the retired teachers would be left out in the cold. It was impossible to do good for both groups if you followed the news out of Austin. So the result was to do nothing good for either group, but to put in place many penalties for both groups.

 

            However, there is a group of educators called No Texas Teacher Left Behind that is working diligently for the betterment of all teachers. We believe that what is good for the active teacher is also good for the retired teacher. Texas can have a quality educational system with teacher salary and benefits that attract the best and the brightest. It can also maintain the TRS program for the good of all retired teachers.  But the governor and the legislature must quit shoving this financial burden on the shoulders of the teaching profession alone. The state must share in the burden by restoring the states contribution to the TRS fund to its previous level.

            NTTLB wants our state government to do right by all teachers. This means the first across the board pay raise in six years for active teachers and annual cost of living raises for all annuitants. The state should also quit penalizing those teachers who have retired but found it necessary to return to work. Teachers should have access to the same health care programs as other state employees and at the same cost. When these basic necessities are in place, the state can have some meaningful dialogue about moving the educational system into the twenty-first century.

 

            No more empty promises from our elected officials. No more apologies for not getting the job done. No more second chances. It is time for substantive action. Teachers, lets unite and become active participants in the next state election. No Texas Teacher Left Behind originated in Kilgore, Texas, with chapters beginning in other parts of the state. Its mission is to restore respect due teachers from the state legislature and governor. We can be reached at .

 

Martha Wright

Kilgore, Texas

 
Jim Bardwell, publisher of The Gladewater Mirror, wrote the following editorial about House Bill 2. 

Once again the Texas State Legislature is trying to give Texas teachers the shaft with the introduction of House Bill 2. And they will succeed if everyone doesnt rally around these hard working, dedicated professionals who have been treated unfairly for decades.

House Bill 2 contains no salary increase for teachers. Instead it calls for unspecified increases for a very small percentage of teachers based on student performance on standardized test scores. Each district must develop an incentive plan, to be approved by the commissioner of education. The plan may provide incentives for other personnel, grade levels or departments. Decisions of the local school board are final and may not be appealed. Incentive bonuses don’t count for TRS purposes.

The bill also provides that local districts may pay above the state minimum. Provides that if a local district is going to pay above the minimum it should be based on the teachers ability to improve student performance; the importance of the grade level or subject being taught; the skills required beyond basic teaching; and whether that teacher is assigned to a subject or campus that is hard to staff.

House Bill 2 also requires each district to spend 1% of its state and local revenue on incentives or mentoring. It makes mentors for beginning teachers optional rather than required.

The bill also deletes the escalator clause that automatically increased the state minimum salary schedule.

It deletes the requirement that all school employees get $1000 to help fund health insurance. Only teachers get the $1000 in this bill. It takes money away from the educational support staff that need it the most.

The Texas State Legislature seems to care more for state highway workers than they do for the people who help shape our future leaders. While state highway workers have state health insurance, a state pension and retirement plan, and various other state benefits teachers, most of whom have at least two college degrees, in Texas are left to fend for themselves.

That isn’t right – and the Legislature should know that.

House Bill 2 also includes the following:

 Creates another incentive plan for campuses that have more than 50% economically disadvantaged students and are rated academically acceptable. Caps the amount given at $100 million and requires that at least 75% of the money be used to give at least a $7,500 bonus for each teacher on a campus receiving the bonus. The system must be set up by the Commissioner by September 1, 2006.

Allows districts or campuses that are rated exemplary to be exempt from almost all the state standards that helped them achieve that status, including class size limits, contracts, minimum salaries, teacher certification requirements, etc.

Doesnt provide enough new money to adequately fund the schools. Requires a vote in order to raise local property taxes by any amount.

Requires the Commissioner to develop a system to create a value added rating for teachers using standardized test scores.

 Requires the SBOE to add eight new indicators for the purpose of assigning a district an exemplary rating.

 Sets up new sanctions for public schools that are rated in the bottom 10% for performance and also do not meet AYP. For the bottom 5% the commissioner shall assign a team to assist the campus to improve. The second year the commissioner shall establish an alternative management system for that campus.   

Creates a new instant certification for administrators. After three years the district can either give the person permanent certification or fire him/her.

Mandates new norm referenced test(s) to be given. Gives the Commissioner the authority to determine the test(s) and grade levels at which they are given.

 Replaces funding formulas for special population programs (special education, bilingual, etc.) with designated dollar amounts. Any future increase in these programs could be endangered because they would have to compete with other priorities and be approved by a vote of the legislature.

 Dictates that all school board elections will be held in November.

 Requires all schools to start on the Tuesday after Labor Day and end by June 7 unless they are year round schools.

 Requires that student performance by graduates of various colleges of education will be used as an accountability measure for that program.

The Texas State Legislature again has missed the mark and they should be called on the carpet by all voters in Texas.

Why should we pay our teachers less than and demand more?

Why should we expect teachers to buy many of their own supplies? Most teachers spend at least $1,000 each year out of their own pockets for educational material not supplied by the school district. This is a fact and if any school district administrator says differently, he or she is not telling the truth.

Why shouldn’t teachers – who are governed by state guidelines and mandates – be included in the state’s insurance plan? More people in the state insurance plan should generate a lower premium for the state, take the expenditure burden off local districts and taxpayers, and teachers would finally have affordable healthcare for their families.

Rep. Bryan Hughes was asked to introduce such a bill – but so far no such bill has surfaced. You asked for teachers to re-elect you, and they did. Where’s the bill Rep. Hughes?

In fact, the only bills that have surfaced have been bills that hurt teachers thus hurting our future.

Teachers cant legally strike in Texas, but they could certainly all call in sick for 3-5 days. Then, who would babysit all the children in Texas?

One state legislator reportedly said he didn’t care what teachers thought about any legislation because he didn’t consider them a threat. He said teachers will never fight as a unified force, so they are a non-issue.

It is time to give back to those who have given so much for so long. Call you state senator and representative today and ask them to give teachers a fair shake and throw out House Bill 2.

Then ask them to treat teachers like the professionals that they are. Ask them if they remember former Gov. Mark White?

Teachers joined forces and put him in office and then when he betrayed their trust and didn’t fulfill his promises – they booted him out.

Republican or Democrat – it doesn’t matter. Right is right and wrong is wrong – and House Bill 2 is wrong.