“One of those burdens that we have placed on our school districts is that they cannot decrease your salary. They can’t have furlough days. It’s not allowed in the law. The only option is to fire,” said [State Senate Education Committee Chairman Florence] Shapiro. “We need to give them the ability to lower teacher salaries.”
Shapiro said she hopes to have a committee meeting “the very first thing out of the box” on so-called unfunded mandates, such as the salary issue.
“The last thing we want to do is put people on the unemployment rolls,” she said. “So we’ve got to make sure that that particular part of the law is erased.”
Under current law, the standard teacher contract is a minimum of 187 days, including 180 days of instruction and the rest for purposes such as professional development.
A school district can reduce pay for noncontract workers — janitors and cafeteria workers, for example — and it can reduce teacher salaries from one year to the next if notice is given at least 45 days before the first day of instruction, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said. However, under a provision meant to safeguard a state salary increase, teachers and several other classes of employees who work for a school district in the 2010-2011 school year cannot get a salary cut if they stay with the same school district.
Richard Kouri, a Texas State Teachers Association spokesman, said his group is split on the issue of furloughs and salary decreases.
It does not want to limit options to deal with the funding crisis but believes the state should be increasing professional development days and “getting our salaries out of the bottom third in the country” to recruit and retain the best, he said.
“If we’re going to look at a long list of things that are bad options that are going to take public education in Texas the wrong direction instead of the right direction,” he said, “they might as well be on the list of things that are going to take us in the wrong direction.”
I guess the positive way of looking at this is that the reality of firing 100,000 teachers has sunk in a bit, and it’s made a few Republicans blanch, though they’re doing their best to put a happy face on things. The “solution”, if you can call it that, might soften that blow a bit – you will note that no one is claiming that even if furloughs and salary cuts are in the equation that there would not still be teachers getting fired – but at what cost? Does anyone really think that classroom instruction and student performance won’t be affected by this? Does anyone really think this won’t greatly damage our ability to hire and retain good teachers? Does anyone really think that the Republicans will make it a priority to undo any of this when better times return? I sure don’t. Martha has more.