With the creation of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force last week, teachers have multiple opportunities to share their suggestions for ways to keep teachers in the classroom and attract more people to the profession.
TEA is soliciting input and seeking nominations for teachers to serve on the task force after getting a lot of public criticism for initially including only two teachers among the 28 appointees. On Tuesday, TEA announced it would expand the task force by 24, creating parity between the teachers and the administrators who had already been appointed. TCTA member Jean Streepey of Highland Park ISD is one of the two initial teachers appointed to the task force.
TEA is accepting nominations through April 1 and said it would name the additional members before the next meeting in May. The task force has begun soliciting feedback from teachers, other educators and the public through a form on its website.
One of the superintendents on the task force, Dr. Jason Hewitt of Shepherd ISD, posted an online survey over the weekend to collect input from teachers. As of Tuesday, he reported receiving more than 17,000 comments.
“If you are a teacher, please take a moment to give your thoughts on the issues relating to teacher vacancy and your ideas or solutions to the problem,” Dr. Hewitt wrote. “Teachers, thank you for serving our students. You are the foundation of the education system, and we need to hear from you!”
We’re encouraged that TEA responded to the demands for additional teacher representation but still have serious concerns about the focus of the task force. TCTA Executive Director Jeri Stone issued the following statement last week in response to the first meeting of the task force:
"What we saw today is that the focus of the task force will be on the needs of school districts, rather than educators and students. That allows state leaders to avoid the fact that teachers are leaving due to poor working conditions, low pay, a lack of support from administrators and hostile political rhetoric directed at teachers for simply doing their jobs.
"All of it has sapped the joy out of teaching for so many talented, experienced educators. The best way to determine how to keep qualified teachers in the classroom is to ask them what they need and show them the professional respect they deserve."
We encourage members to share your ideas with TEA as well as Dr. Hewitt.
TEA said the task force will meet every other month for one year, with Commissioner Mike Morath and agency leadership regularly facilitating discussions with task force members, while including insights gathered from experts and additional education stakeholders throughout Texas.
In feedback on TCTA’s Facebook page, many people have stressed better pay, fewer extra duties outside regular school hours and limiting required additional training as key ways to improve teacher retention.