Last Thursday morning at 11:52 am, I received a call from my 13 year old son. With chants of “Save our Teachers” in the background, he informed me that he was standing in front of his school protesting the firing of teachers from his school and other schools in the district. He did not ditch class, he walked out of school during his lunch hour. I told him I supported his protest as long as he did so respectfully and went back to class after his lunch break was over. He did.
Several local news stations carried this protest as well as others throughout the district. The State of Texas is facing mass budget shortfalls and education will take a heavy hit. Katy ISD announced plans to cut 550 jobs within the district. Of these jobs, 500 teachers were lost to attrition or lay-offs and 50 administrative jobs were cut. If these figures seem lopsided to you, you’re not the only one. But more about that later. The following letter was sent out to all students via email from the Superintendent of Katy ISD following Thursday’s walk-outs:
Today, some of your peers decided to take a stand to have their voices heard in protest of teacher lay-offs. I understand that many of you are upset over losing great teachers, and I too feel the same frustration. This entire process has been one of the toughest challenges we’ve faced as a school district in recent years. Therefore, I want you – our students – to understand how we got here:
The State of Texas is facing an education budget shortfall of as much as $10 billion over the next two years. This means that school districts all over the state will not receive a significant amount of money. For Katy ISD, we’re estimating a loss of approximately $50 million. However, by Texas law, we cannot reduce teacher pay to save jobs. And, by Texas law, we cannot use funds for new school buildings to pay teachers. This is why we have had to face the difficult task of cutting back on programs and laying-off staff members – both teachers and administrators.
Texas law requires us to notify teachers of their job status at least 45 days before the last day of school. So, even though the state has not announced a final dollar amount that will be cut from our schools, we are forced to make difficult staffing decisions before April 19. This deadline is what drove the announcements this week. These layoffs are necessitated by the projected shortfall in state financial support-not due to job performance. My hope is that the state does not cut as much as is currently projected, allowing us to hire some of these great teachers back.
Our goal is to spread the cuts as much as possible so as to not severely impact the classroom, classroom support, student learning experiences and other services that have made Katy ISD one of the top school districts in our nation.
You are Katy ISD, and I admire you for wanting to have your voice heard – and for caring about our great teachers. We are continuing to work hard to balance this situation, and I ask that you be respectful of your teachers and your principals as this time is very difficult for all of us.
Please stay focused on your academics and finish strong in this last stretch of the 2011 school year.
Superintendent of Schools
Having been in this district for several years, I was unimpressed with the letter as were many students who received it. More protests were carried out the following day, and yet another email was sent out:
Information regarding student protest:
· Students’ voices have been heard and messages have reached the state leaders
· Their point is appreciated and has been made
· Behavior observed/occurring now on behalf of students in not peaceful or focused but disruptive and not safe
· Further disruption of the school day will result in disciplinary action
I applaud the kids for standing up for their teachers. What I don’t appreciate is feeling like our kids are being used as pawns in some power play between the state legislature and the local school superintendent. Based on several news stories and interviews I read and viewed on television, it seems the teachers were approached by administration staff during the school day and told they were getting laid off. They then had the option of completing the rest of the day or going home. The district had substitute teachers on hand if the teacher chose to leave for the day. Many chose to leave, many visibly upset and in tears. I question why the district carried out these layoffs while the children were there to witness them, especially when Friday was an early dismissal day for students and they could have waited until after 12:40 when the kids had left for the day. Of course, the news media had mostly cleared out by then, too.
Katy ISD only spends 49.7% of each dollar on the classroom. The Administration makes a lot more money than the teachers. Add this to the fact, that over 80M is sitting in a bank account in the district, and you see just how ludicrous the actions were of this administrator. There is zero requirement for 80M to be in the reserve funds of the ISD. Yet, he still wanted to make political points. (Source: /Texas for 56: Katy Schools Suffer As Superintendent Wields Power
Here’s a few statistics via Texas Education Agency.
- For every public school teacher in Texas, school districts have one non-teaching staff position.
- State-wide, teachers earn an average of $9,000 a year less than “other professional staff,” $22,000 less than school administrators and $38,000 less than central administration staff.
- The turnover rate for teachers is about 15%, with almost 38% of teachers having less than 5 years teaching experience.
- Superintendents on average take home six-figure salaries, with the highest-paid superintendent, Thomas Carroll of Beaumont ISD (19,000 students), earning $346,778 per year – nearly 2 ½ times more than the Texas governor!
- Superintendents typically enjoy a number of perks, like an expense account, retirement contribution, car and housing allowances, bonuses, and more.
There’s so much more to this mess, but this post is already too long. Thanks for letting me vent.
It seems to me that if we could eliminate a few more admin jobs and stop building these Taj Mahals they call administration buildings, we could afford to put more money back into the classrooms. I understand the need for administrative and support staff, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a t-shirt that said, “If you can read this, thank an administrator”.
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