The House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment met this week for two days of invited testimony from a wide variety of education stakeholders. Among those invited were representatives from the Texas Education Agency, various superintendents, private school organizations, and, most importantly, TCTA.
Tuesday’s hearing began with TEA representatives giving a detailed overview of the funding for public education approved during the regular session as well as responding to a battery of questions from committee members about teacher pay, special education, accountability systems, and vouchers, among other things.
Other testimony generally focused on issues related to funding, with a common refrain that education funding has not kept up with inflation and that recommendations of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force were not addressed in the regular session.
Wednesday’s hearing continued many of the same themes as the day before but featured more testimony from teachers, administrators, and superintendents. TCTA general counsel and lobby team member Lonnie Hollingsworth provided more technical suggestions to support the teaching profession, focusing on increasing the basic allotment, guaranteeing more significant raises as teachers gain experience, and providing additional funding to underfunded districts to support raises for teachers and other educators. He also highlighted the struggles teachers face with student discipline and encroachments on planning time. His written testimony can be found here.
TCTA Directors' Council members Vivian Burleson and Tommy Evans testified about their decades of experience teaching in Texas.
Burleson described the conditions she has experienced as a gifted and talented coordinator in Northside ISD. She and her husband have both been teachers for over 20 years and feel called to education, but despite their experience, their salaries have effectively decreased over time. She spoke of increasing professional demands but a significant lack of support, citing examples where she had to cut short enrichment services for her GT students to cover understaffed classrooms.
Burleson went on to detail increasing discipline problems and inadequate mental health and behavioral supports for students and how these responsibilities to care for every aspect of their students’ lives fall more and more onto teachers’ shoulders. Finally, she lamented the lack of work-life balance in her two-teacher household due to the encroachment of extra duties into what should be personal time.
Evans, an art teacher in Abilene ISD, has also taught for 20years, but admitted that he has looked for a way out of the profession in the past few years despite his love for education and being a role model for his students. Over the years, he has absorbed additional class periods with increasing numbers of students, with some classes even surpassing forty students.
In Abilene ISD, the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) program is only accessible to core subject teachers, but Evans pointed out that life-changing teachers are in all kinds of classrooms, not just core classes. He expressed his hope that TIA can be made more accessible to other subjects. Evans noted that the word “support” gets thrown around a lot when discussing teachers, but to him, it means, first and foremost, paying teachers a livable wage. He closed by pointing out that everyone in the meeting room had been influenced in their lives by a great teacher, and that lawmakers should truly value teachers for what they do for our communities.
After their testimony, the TCTA team fielded questions from the committee members. Hollingsworth provided details regarding mechanisms to directly increase teacher pay, while Burleson and Evans responded to Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins’ objections to an across-the-board pay raise for teachers. Burleson made an excellent point that while Gervin-Hawkins aimed to distinguish between who does and does not deserve to be paid more, there are classrooms without teachers and the profession is in crisis. Many members of the audience and some other committee members nodded in agreement.
We deeply appreciate Burleson and Evans for volunteering their time to come to Austin to testify. Their testimony was compelling and we look forward to seeing how the committee’s report incorporates their suggestions.