Texas teachers speak out to lawmakers during Legislative Session
HOUSTON - The Lone Star State's front-line educators have leaped into the legislative trenches looking to secure a healthy share of the $31 billion budget surplus.
"As much as I love my job, it is a job I consider leaving multiple times a week and I can say that is true of every teacher I talk to," said teacher Melina Recio.
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It was Recio, a dedicated high school English instructor from McCallen, who best explained why the teaching ranks in Texas are steadily thinning due to limited pay and burnout.
"I usually work 12-hour days and most weekends," said Recio. "The number of tasks teachers are required and expected to do in a day is astronomical and astronomically unsustainable if you talk to any Pre-K through 12 teachers in this state."
The testimony came on Senate Bill 9, which has incorporated many of the recommendations of Governor Abbott's Teacher Vacancy Task Force including an across-the-board pay raise and the completion of a "time study" to address the excessive hours instructors must devote to meeting their responsibilities.
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Teachers are also seeking a reduction in the cost of their health insurance and the provision of subsidized child care which is a benefit some individual districts are already delivering.
"So a lot of younger generation teachers that are graduating, starting off their families, they come to school," said Kristin Brown Lyford ISD Superintendent. "They bring their children. The daycare is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 which allows the teachers who want to stay after school and provide tutoring or just allows those teachers the extra time to take care of their own personal business."
Teachers called a proposed $2,000 annual raise "welcome" but insufficient.
Recio challenged Senators to consult their children and grandchildren.
"I want you to ask them what teacher was there for them because I promise you, they will have a name and I want you to ask them what they think that person should be paid," said Recio. "When I have hundreds of papers, literally hundreds of papers to grade or parent phone calls to make or paperwork to do or lessons to plan or crying children to console or data to analyze or training to do or a game or a concert or a play to attend or another meeting to go to with the magical solution that will save us all, I think of their faces, their hopes and dreams and I know that it is worth it."
Texas currently ranks 25th of the 50 states in teacher pay at an average of nearly $59,000 per year.