Parents, teachers and students gearing up for the March 24 Save Texas Schools rally will be armed with information from two recent surveys that confirm the statewide scope of what they already have experienced firsthand—that the $5.4 billion in state budget cuts to public education are having a direct and harmful impact on classrooms.
“Statewide we’ve seen larger class sizes, lack of instructional materials, and loss of programs to help struggling students succeed,” said Linda Bridges, Texas AFT president. “Parents, students and teachers on March 24 will again send a loud message that we plan to fight for our kids and that we can do better for them and our state’s future. Last year we gathered by the thousands to protest these cuts but were rebuffed by some politicians who claimed that schools would do just fine, that the planned cuts would be absorbed outside the classroom. That story line didn’t fool us then, and it doesn’t wash now as we look at what thousands of school employees and hundreds of superintendents have told us in surveys.”
A recent Texas AFT web survey of more than 3,500 teachers, school employees and parents reveals the extent to which our schools are experiencing widespread layoffs, cuts to key programs and services, larger class sizes, and stressful conditions for teaching and learning—all related to the $5.4 billion in state budget cuts enacted last year. Some 92 percent of respondents noted layoffs in their district, with a large percentage reporting loss of teachers (85 percent) and teacher assistants (79 percent). A subsequent survey of 241 superintendents released in January reported actual numbers of layoffs, indicating the loss of more than 30,000 teachers and other school employees statewide by conservative estimate.
“This isn’t just about cutting band trips or football awards banquets,” Bridges said. “Laying off teachers means cramming more kids into each class and the loss of the individualized attention our diverse population of students requires. Eliminating pre-K grants means that kids don’t get the foundation in learning that they desperately need. Wiping out tutorials and services like the Student Success Initiative means more kids won’t meet increasingly rigorous achievement standards, or will simply drop out altogether.”
Another consequence of the cuts is the eroding morale of school employees who are overworked, taxed with large class sizes and excessive paperwork and beaten down by an increasing overemphasis on standardized testing, Bridges said.
Small wonder, then, that some 81 percent of school employees surveyed said the climate for students, teachers, and staff at their school this year was “Worse” or “Much Worse,” and 72 percent further described it as “Stressful and Taxing,” she said.
The Texas AFT survey reports can be downloaded at www.texasaft.org.