State House OKs Lower Pay & Furloughs For Teachers

AUSTIN (AP) – School districts will be able to pay public school teachers less and furlough them without pay beginning in 2012 under a bill passed by the House on Thursday.

The measure also allows the education commissioner to consider budget cuts in allowing larger class sizes in some schools. The bill now goes back to the Senate to consider amendments added by the House on Thursday.

Lawmakers have slashed public school spending in order to balance the state budget without raising taxes or spending the Rainy Day Fund. The proposed law is designed to help school districts adjust to lower per-student funding.

Opponents claim that it allows school districts to mistreat teachers. Supporters say the measure is necessary under the current economic situation and will expire when school funding returns to 2010-2011 levels.

Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, sponsored the bill in the House and said it was needed to allow school districts to cope with the state’s financial problems.

“We’ve asked our schools to educate our children to a higher standard and in return, we need to give them the flexibility to meet our expectations.”

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, spoke against the bill, which he argued passes on to the school districts the financial problems the Legislature failed to address.

“Teachers are at the center of the target, and we are attacking them,” Turner asked during the debate Thursday. “This is nothing but another attack on our teachers.”

The bill would allow school districts wait longer before notifying teachers that their contracts will not be renewed, giving districts more time to figure out how much money they’ll have the following year. Teachers complain, though, that they won’t have enough time to find a new job with another district under that schedule. Currently, teachers can’t seek employment elsewhere while under contract, or else they risk losing their teaching certificate.

A teacher’s contract would no longer have a salary minimum under the bill, allowing districts to pay teachers less than they were paid in the 2010-2011 school year. Right now, school districts can only cut salary costs by eliminating teaching positions. School districts could also furlough teachers for up to six days without pay under the proposed law.

Schools would no longer be required to lay off teachers in order of least seniority, giving districts the opportunity to lay off more senior, higher-salaried teachers.

The law does maintain a maximum class size of 22 students for elementary schools, but expands the circumstances in which the education commissioner may grant a waiver to include the impact of budget cuts.

All of the measures expire when school funding exceeds 2010-2011 levels. An earlier bill removed a requirement that the state pay a minimum level per student and pay only what the state has available for public schools.

Opponents complain that the measures will have no impact on the 2011-2012 school year, since contracts have already been signed under current law. They are also concerned that it sets a dangerous precedent for how the state treats public school teachers.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • Jennifer Crow

    Will rep.Rob Eissler sponsor a bill in the house for them to be payed less ( alot less) and take furlough. You leaders need to cope with the state’s financial problems. Seeing how you are the ones who made them.Right now, it’s your children and their teachers. How long will it be before it’s you.

  • Working for America

    Thank You Republican Party!!!!

    • mccoy

      Thank them if they reduce their own pay.

    • R Hill

      You are Welcome

  • j.d.

    The state convress only gets 500 a month. THat is not exactly a lvaish paycheck.

    • re: j.d.

      Dude??? Where did you get your information??? $170,000(ish) is the minimum 2011 salary for a House of Representatives and Senator. Then they get over $1,000,000 (yes that’s a million dollars) for staff. Then I also didn’t calculate bonuses and allowances!!!!

      • leaderjoe

        This is TEXAS STATE House of Reps, and the pay is NOT as you report. That pay belongs to the US House and Senate… oh whats the use… you are prob a teacher as well…

      • R HIll

        Dude< You need to check your Information. Texas House members get paid $7200 per year and a per deim of $128 per day the legislature is in session, not $177,000 a year. I think you are confusing the US House with the Texas Legislature.

      • re j.d. 2

        Yeah, I googled too quickly and wasn’t paying attention. However, they still dropped the ball on this finance mess. They are still the ones that should be held accountable. Lets face it, if you worked for a private company and made a mistake that cost BILLIONS…you would be so fired!!

  • George Lawton

    Anytime the state legislature meets (which is not often), you can bet your last dollar that state employees and teachers will be the biggest losers. Too bad we do not have any leadership from the governor. How many special sessions has he called while in office. Way too many.

  • T. J.

    This is an injustice to all the teachers in the United States. This bill is just another example that our voted in congress leaders do not care about the constituents. Just think of all the teachers who voted to put the same leaders in to office. It will be our children’s education that will suffer not theirs because their children attend private schools; where all the best teachers will apply to work and get the better paying jobs after the 2011-2012 school year. And don’t be fooled by the statement “until the teacher’s pay return to the 2010-2011 rate. My guess is we will not see that rate in our life time because they are going to make the high schools virtual soon. Meaning they will not need as many teachers in the near future. Teachers go back to school and study for a green job or you will find yourself in deep economical trouble.

  • R. Alexander

    As a veteran teacher I see everything I have worked toward retirement just slipping away. I only have 6 more years to teach in Texas and my retirement is based on the highest 5 years of salary. In the past 2 years I have already gone backwards by moving to another district and now this. Texas was already ranked 35th in teacher pay, might as well move on down to the bottom,but don’t be surprised if the quality of education goes down with it.

    • leaderjoe

      Oh, should Texas be 1st in teacher pay? 10th? Our state is affordable with no state income tax. So tired of the comparison statistics. Plano gave its teacher’s a 5% pay increase when every other company was slashing salaries and eliminating positions. 5% increase is more like a 9% increase when considering only 180 days are worked.

      • Frustrated

        I suggest you work as a teacher for one grading period just to understand what teachers experience. It bothers me that so-called leaders look at teachers as having an easy career due to the breaks and summers off. Believe it or not, teachers actually work several hours a week. Teachers actually take their work home with them. I want you to know that teachers put so many hours to provide other children an education that most times they do not get to enjoy our own children as much as they like. My brother is a math teacher and I am highly frustrated at the fact that he has become a “summertime” dad just to meet the demands of his school district. However, I am pleased with the percentage of his students who passed the TAKS test. 98% of his students passed the TAKS inlcuding 73% of them with commended status. It’s unfortunate that he had to neglect his family to achieve such success. I truly encourage you to work as a teacher for one grading period and see if you would like to earn less money for performing the same duties.

  • Ed

    when the children in Texas can’t read, write, or do simple math don’t you dare ask why!!!

  • mccoy

    This one party system in texas isn’t working. they vote everyone a pay decrease but their own.

  • BT

    The Texas Lotto was passed by telling us the money would be used for education. Now, these republicans have turned it into a “rainy day fund” and will not use it on our teachers when they need it most.

  • J. K.

    Lowering, or even raising, teacher salaries is not the answer to low grade scores. It is the attitude of the student toward learning which must be addressed.

  • Summer

    Way to go on this essay, hlpeed a ton.

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