Committee Tries to Solve Teacher Shortage and Other Problems Faced by Texas Public Education
AUSTIN - The Senate Education Committee met today, September 18, 2002, to examine its interim charges 2 and 3, related to teacher supply, benefits, and preparation.
The members first heard testimony from three panels on the evaluation of traditional and alternative teachers' certification programs. The first panel included Bill Franz, Executive Director; Ed Fuller, Director of Research; and Ron Kettler, Program Administrator for the Office of Accountability, who are representatives of the State Board for Educators Certification. They said that in the last two years, the number and percentage of non-certified newly hired teachers was bigger that the newly hired teachers certified in any subject. Questioned by Senator Truan, they mentioned that 40 percent of teachers leave their profession in the first five years. Twenty percent of those pursuing traditional and alternative certification programs are Hispanics, while ten percent are African-Americans. The panel presented an extensive report of related studies. There is an historical increase in the teacher-student classrooms ratios that is expected to keep increasing, whenconfronted with the growth in enrollment. Senator Truan spoke about the perpetuation of a system that keeps schools of poor whites and ethnic and racial minorities receiving less funds, and by extension fewer and not as well prepared teachers.
The next presenter was Dr. Jane Close Conoley, President of the Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. She talked about the different certification programs, recruitment and completion rates in universities. Besides better pay and benefits, Dr. Conoley advised the committee to give more support and mentoring to teachers in the first years, when so many of them leave the profession.
The third panel presented a discussion on the specific preparation programs of different institutions. Besides their specific programs, teachers' recruitment, attrition and retention were issues discussed.
The next issue was the use and re-employment of teachers. Patty O. Featherston and Ronnie Young, Deputy Director, provided testimony representing the Teacher Retirement System. To solve the shortage of teachers, a new provision allows retired teachers to go back to work as temporary workers without losing retirement benefits. The committee heard both pros and cons of hiring retired teachers,
One of the issues examined was the use of retirees in educators preparation programs. Dr. Conoley provided testimony as president of the Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; and Dr. John Beck as dean of College of Education at Southwest Texas State University. They both hire retirees as supervisors, instructors and mentors of education students, trying to increase retention rates of future teachers.
Gloria White, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Participation and Success at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, addressed the incentives to enter teaching. Among them, she talked about the student loan-forgiving program for new teachers working in historically under-served areas. She mentioned her organization's web page, http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/, which provides links to all relevant information to become a Texas teacher. David Long, Vice President of the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation was also in this panel. They have a program that aids teachers among other participants in targeted and non-targeted areas with first-time home buying.
Al Summers, Vice President for Outreach and Professional Development at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, testified about advanced professional development and certification programs. Low pay, discipline problems, and lack of administrative support were given as main reasons for teachers to abandoning their profession. For those who do want to teach, knowledge and ability to teach are both very important, he said.
The Senate Education Committee is chaired by Senator Teel Bivins of Lubbock. Members include Senators Judith Zaffirini as Vice-Chair, Kip Averitt, David Cain, Jane Nelson, Florence Shapiro, Todd Staples, Carlos Truan and Leticia Van de Putte. The committee recessed subject to the call of its chair.