Hundreds of educators from across Texas traveled to Austin Monday to spend the first day of their spring break rallying for increased state funding for public schools.
Standing on the steps of the capitol and chanting “the time is now,’ the participants called on lawmakers to follow through on promises to overhaul the school finance system and boost state spending on education.
Before legislators can make that happen, the Senate and the House will have to reconcile competing visions. Senate leadership has earmarked much of their proposed funding boost for teacher raises, while the bill backed by House leadership would significantly increase per student spending.
The across-the-board $5,000 raise for teachers and librarians is estimated to cost $4 billion for the upcoming biennium, while the House school finance overhaul bill would add $6.3 billion in state funding for schools, including an additional $890 per student in base funding.
If it comes down to one or the other, Longfellow Middle School social studies teacher Adrian Reyna said he’d choose a more equitable school funding system over a raise.
“I’ll be honest, no teacher’s going to say no to that money, but unfortunately it doesn’t fully address the inherent and holistic issues that we have with public education funding,” said Reyna, who works in the San Antonio Independent School District. “Especially when you work in an urban school or a Title One school, a lower socioeconomic area -- you feel the effects of the inadequacies of the public education finance system.”
Mitzi Moore from the North East Independent School District agreed.
“I’m fortunate to be in a district that pays pretty well — San Antonio teachers in general are paid pretty well — so I think a comprehensive finance reform would be better off than a one-time teacher pay that’s not even guaranteed for the future.”
Moore teaches digital media at the International School of the Americas.
Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who authored the teacher raise bill, has said the bill is intended to be permanent, but some teacher groups are skeptical that state lawmakers will continue to fund the raise past the upcoming biennium.
Moore and Reyna were among dozens of San Antonio teachers that boarded charter buses before dawn to travel to Austin for the rally, which was organized by the Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
Other goals of the rally included shoring up the teacher retirement system, adding all school staff to the teacher raise bill, eliminating educator merit pay from the school finance overhaul bill, and pushing lawmakers to reconsider the high stakes tied to the state’s standardized tests.