Senate, House Focus On Proposed Education Bills

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Sharp: Teacher Pay Raise A Good Start, More Teachers Needed

State officials this session have considered quite a few bills proposed by both the House and Senate which impact schools, including an across-the-board raise for teachers, changes to the Teacher Retirement System, safety and security, and school funding.

While the passage of an across-the-board teacher pay raise is a welcome change for teachers state-wide, including those at local schools, some say it’s only a start.

According to Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, fewer people seeking and attaining teacher certification continues to be another issue that needs to be addressed issue.

“Data from the Texas Education Agency shows Texas faces an increasingly tight supply of teachers. Since 2009, K through 12 student enrollment is up by 14 percent, while the number of teachers has risen by less than 9 percent. Meanwhile, Texas has seen a 14 percent drop in the number of initial teacher certifications in the past decade,” Sharp wrote in an editorial release.

Sharp hopes We Teach Texas, an A&M system-wide campaign focusing on the system’s 11 education colleges in an effort to “encourage more Texans who care to become teachers.”

“The Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University-Commerce has been a leader in teacher preparation in East Texas since the school’s inception nearly 127 years ago. What makes the undergraduate teacher preparation program at A&M-Commerce distinctive is the focus on clinical experiences, including a semester of internship and a semester of residency in local public schools,” Sharp wrote.

With fewer young people seeking careers in education, the “need for dedicated teachers across East Texas is constantly growing,” Sharp added.

“Teachers are on the frontlines of building our economy, and they are enablers of young people who want to see their dreams come true. We take our charge to prepare them for the classroom on Day One seriously,” Sharp wrote.

To learn more about becoming a teacher, visit www.WeTeachTexas.com.

Other Education-Related Action

In other action, Dax Gonzalez with Texas Association of School Boards Governmental Relations department reported the following among the actions taken by the House and Senate on Thursday:

The Senate Finance Committee passed SB 1, the proposed state budget bil. The Senate’s original plan called for $6-7 billion for education spending and a property tax buy-down; of that $3-4 billion would go toward a $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay-raise and about $2.7 billion to make up for a property tax revenue decrease that would occur after capping local property tax growth.

The version passed on Thursday increases the amount for public schools by allocating $9 billion of additional funds for public education and property tax reform. The budget includes $4 billion for teacher pay raises identified in SB 3; $2.7 billion for property tax reform; and $2.3 billion for school finance reform. The Senate, under the new plan, would use HB 3 as the vehicle for school finance reform.

The $9 billion is equivalent to the school finance and property tax reform budget passed by the House on Wednesday night, except the Senate’s version dedicates the $4 billion for teacher salaries, Gonzalez reported.

Author: Faith Huffman

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