FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2006
While we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week from April 24-28, the Legislature will be debating how much and whether to raise their salaries.
The special session on public school finance began this past Monday. On Tuesday, Senator Shapiro filed Senate Bill 1, which includes a woefully inadequate teacher pay increase of $2,000. Teachers have not received a state increase since 1999, and in fact, their health care stipends were reduced by $500 in 2003. I have made it clear to my colleagues that I support full restoration of the health care stipend and a $3,000 pay increase for teachers.
John F. Kennedy once remarked, "Modern cynics and skeptics see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing."
We cannot in good conscience expect to achieve excellence in our public schools by shortchanging the very people who can help our children reach that level. And we should also forego any plan to give teachers merit pay until we first increase their compensation. In addition, I oppose merit pay based on student test scores.
While I strongly agree with the aspects of SB 1 to improve graduation rates, academic standards and college readiness, I want to be assured when I vote that, if we raise standards for high school graduation, the state will provide the necessary funds to do so adequately. The state has not yet provided the adequate resources needed to implement the recommended high school curriculum that became the standard for all students entering high school in 2004.
There are some provisions in SB 1 related to low-performing schools that are too general, which concerns me because this can lead to a take-over of public schools by private operators with limited accountability, such as has occurred with some charter schools.
Giving students higher academic standards without the backing of funding is like giving a child a notepad to write but withholding the pencil. It doesn't work.
It is also regrettable that SB 1 disregards funding for instructional facilities. The Supreme Court raised a red flag on the issue of facilities. The lack of funding for facilities is reaching a crisis level. This is an issue that the Legislature will have to address soon, and there is no better time than the present. Adequate facilities are part of the learning process, and for teachers, they form part of the teaching process.
We have an opportunity this Special Session to make true educational improvements in the classroom and to equity levels. I've made a promise to myself and to my constituents not to compromise the future of our children by settling for mediocrity. I am committed to passing legislation that provides the very best education for our students, and that includes a substantial raise and the proper teaching materials for all our teachers.
Senator Lucio is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Education Reform and Public School Finance. You may contact Senator Lucio at (512) 463-0127 if you have any input or questions regarding education or other matters. Perla Cavazos, senior policy analyst, handles education issues for the Senator.