Tag Archives: budget crisis

A Single Voice

…Can’t do much. But if everyone who supports public education speaks up, we can make a difference.
I have to believe that because every bit of research shows that education is the way out of poverty. It was for me.
The move from poverty to middle class and even to upper class is what makes the United States different. It’s what makes us special. It’s why people spent weeks on ships in horrible conditions and lived in squalor holding fast to the dream that they too could be anything they wanted if they were willing to work hard.
Kill the public school, and you kill that dream.
This budget crisis isn’t going anywhere if the people in Austin don’t change the way they do business. They’ve created this problem. They need to fix it.
Today, they’re passing the buck. That can’t continue.
But it will if we don’t speak up.

Don’t forget the Save Texas Public Schools rally!
To show support for Texas public schools, teachers and WFISD, a non-partisan Pro-Public Education Rally will be held THURSDAY, April 14 from 8-9 in the Memorial Stadium parking lot. Please bring a flashlight or cell phone with light.
If you would like to speak at the event contact Mary Beth Lee: marybeth@marybethlee.com
Who’s invited? Everyone who believes in a quality Texas Public School System, public school faculty and staff members, parents and students.
Feel free to bring signs showing support for public education.
For more information, feel free to contact me marybeth@marybethlee.com

Save Texas Schools: We can’t if we don’t speak up!

Teachers, if you don’t speak up, if you don’t make your voices heard, if you don’t do the research to prove the government wrong on their arguments for making these drastic cuts, YOU are the problem.
We’re a non-union state, and there’s nothing wrong with that. BUT that doesn’t mean you have no voice.
Write your letters today. Make your phone calls. Learn the truths about what government officials are saying, and know the real answers. Make sure your parents know this isn’t a teacher issue. It’s a PUBLIC EDUCATION DISASTER.
Check out Huffington Post’s education page for story after story after story to help you form your arguments.
Yes, we’re in a depressed economy. But we shouldn’t fix that problem, created by the Texas state government in 2006, by killing public schools.
Speak up now. It’s almost too late.

The Bad News

If the all the cuts proposed are adopted, I’m losing more than 10% of my pay next year. OUCH!
The good news: I work for a district that made this process completely transparent. As painful as this is, it’s not a surprise. And I’m not alone. Several people will be taking huge hits. And unfortunately those hits will affect those of us who spend several extra hours a week and time with our students on weekends more than it hits those who show up for work and check out at quitting time. Unfortunately, those of us going the extra mile had the salary stipends that could be looked at. The state government has to balance the budget, and they’ve chosen to do so on the backs of public servants and the children of the State of Texas. The district has to make budget. End of story. Our budget committee was made up of people from all areas of our district, not just the supers and admin. They studied every area possible to find the cuts, and they did what had to be done. I appreciate the people who gave their time to serve on this committee. Hopefully, their hard work won’t go unappreciated.
What bothers me is how so many people in the public are reacting to the cuts. So many people are saying hurtful, horrible things about teachers right now, and it breaks my heart.
We give our lives to our jobs. You won’t find us on long business lunches with glasses of wine and margaritas or at the gym for 4:00 a fitness class before running home to get dinner together for our families. At night we spend time with our families when we can, but almost always, we’re working on grading papers, giving quality feedback, or doing lesson plans at the same time.
Yes, public education spending has increased in the last decade. But society expects astronomically more from us than they did a decade ago. Are there areas of waste? Sure. Schools are bureaucracies. Waste abounds in bureaucracies. Are there bad teachers out there. Yes. But finding them isn’t as easy as non-educators seem to think. And it costs money to get them out of the classroom.
Today at lunch a friend said she knows a single teacher with two children who qualifies for federal assistance. That makes no sense.
I’m terrified right now. It seems to me that this is a battle for the USA. This is the country where everyone gets a quality education. Where hard work means something. Where children of poverty can change their lives, and that change starts with school. But the US is changing. Poverty levels are increasing, the middle class is shrinking and the rich are getting richer. We’re truly becoming a society of haves and have nots with little upward shifting taking place over the course of time.
All this said, I know I’ll be okay. God’s in control. A couple years before she died, my grandma told me the story of her life during The Great Depression. So many people lost their homes and jobs, tent cities cropped up everywhere. She lived in a tent. My house is paid for.
I won’t get to build the house we wanted to build right now, but I have a home.
I won’t be going to Vegas on vacation, but I have my family.
I won’t be getting a new car, but my car works.
I won’t be spending a lot of my own money on my budget-less publications program, but I probably should have stopped that a long time ago.
So yes, I’ll be okay.
But our schools, that’s another story. A story controlled by politicians and lobbyists and people who have no clue what we do every day on campuses across the nation.

This is America! Save Texas Schools

I was born poor, but I had a great education. In public schools. Across the USA. Including Texas.
I didn’t have to take advanced classes to get that great education. I didn’t have to take a state mandated test to see if I was actually learning. We did take part in a national norm test, but it just told us where we ranked compared to others.
A free public education is essential to democracy. Don’t believe it? Check out countries without.
Tonight at small group we discussed how education in changing, and I’m frightened. If we change to a nation where only rich students learn critical thinking skills, where only rich children have the opportunity for small class sizes and elite level teaching, where only rich children learn more than the content of a standardized test, where will we be? I know the answer and it’s scary. Public educators have to stand up now. They have to say we are the USA and all students deserve a quality free public education, not just those who can afford high tuitions. I understand our states are in a crisis, but killing the public school is NOT the answer.
I keep hearing that teachers are whiny babies who need to “suck it up,” and it kills me. We’re not whiny. We’re the first line of defense against the destruction of a nation built on the foundation that all men are created equal. Like all bureaucracies, there is waste in education, but filling our classrooms with 40 students isn’t the answer. Eliminating pre-K and all- day kindergarten isn’t either. The answers aren’t easy, certainly not as simple as line item cuts on budgets filled with numbers with no thoughts to the lives behind those numbers.
On Saturday educators, students and parents from across the state will gather in Austin to make this point. I hope someone listens. We have a rainy day fund, and it’s pouring outside. The state needs to dip into the fund and protect education now. And they need to take a long, hard look at the practices we’ve embraced that have had zero impact on student achievement.

I’m lucky to work for a district that had been completely transparent in this process. Educators are actually part of finding the tough solutions, solutions that will still be painful. Perhaps the state should follow our lead.

An Open Letter to the Texas State Legislature

Dear Texas State Legislators,
Thank you so much for your concern for public school education. A few years ago, I applauded you for your determined decision to require students to take 4 years of math. At that time, you wanted the final math to be Calculus or better. I asked then how many of you had passed a Calculus or better class in high school. You didn’t respond.
A few years ago I sat in a meeting with other teachers extolling the virtues of TAKS, a test we wouldn’t “just be teaching.” But you somehow proved me wrong. Thanks so much! The same testing companies that drove education budgets in the TAAS era, drive the education budget for TAKS, and soon-to-be STARR. They say the test is essential for real education to take place in the classroom. I guess they’ve said it often enough that it’s fact…even though there’s no data to support that claim. Data? What’s that matter anyway? Sure, we have passing rates on the test. But what exactly is that measured against? I’m not sure drop-out rate qualifies since dropping out lands a student in jail today. College profs say students are less prepared for college than ever (but they’re just gripy). My students can’t spell (it’s secondary on the test, so that’s okay), write in cursive (it’s not on the test, waste of time), have no clue how to write a five paragraph paper (not on the test, who cares?!), look at me with blank faces when I say defend your position with evidence from the work (evidence? what’s that? can’t we just make it all up like we do on the test?). They can write a narrative essay…sort of. They have “voice”…sort of, but they have few technical skills. What they CAN do: ace the test. Great self-esteem booster. It’s going to make a world of difference!
And thanks for developing such a strong relationship between Texas and testing companies. Maybe when teachers get laid off in a couple months, they’ll know where to seek employment! That is AWESOME!
It’s so great that you and the governor have explained that you’re not dipping into the rainy day fund. You’re right. This multi-billion dollar deficit isn’t an emergency. Teachers just need to suck it up. More kids in the classroom? No big deal. Pay cuts? Shoot, we get paid too much already! (Teachers are just whiny. I know. After all, we get summers off, what more do we want?) Besides, I know you’re all so busy with that whole guns on college campuses thing. You are so right. I loved the movie Tombstone. More gun battles are just what we need to keep things interesting. Especially with that whole Mexican drug cartel thing going on. (scratch that. I forgot. It doesn’t matter because that’s Mexico and has nothing to do with us.)
I just wanted to touch base and say thanks so much. You are doing the best you can. Oh, if you see the governor, tell him his hair is looking good. It probably won’t move when he’s out in the March wind when all those teachers show up in Austin March 12. But that’s okay. We won’t make fun of him for that. We’re not that petty. Plus, unlike that state trooper a few years ago, we know who he is.
Sincerely,

(This is a satire. It’s something my students rarely understand these days. They used to. But it’s not on the test.)