Tag Archives: Save Texas Schools

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH #SAVETXSCHOOLS, Vote

Dear Texas Educators,

In March 2011 several thousand people gathered to protest the huge cuts to education. Wendy Davis fought for us then and lost. Will we fight for her now so she can win?

In March 2011 several thousand people gathered to protest the huge cuts to education. Wendy Davis fought for us then and lost. Will we fight for her now so she can win?

Maybe you don’t remember a different time. A time when we had enough full-time teachers in a department to teach classes effectively without feeling overwhelmed. A time when curriculum was built around learning instead of testing. A time when entire districts would have laughed at the idea of YEARS WITHOUT WRITING as part of the scheduled day (hello fifth grade, hello eighth grade).

Maybe you don’t remember those days, but I do.

I also remember 2011, the year a tough job got way more difficult.

(From my Facebook post earlier tonight) Dan Patrick said the $5.4 billion cuts to Texas public education he helped spearhead in 2011 didn’t kill anyone. I have no idea if he’s right, but I feel sure the stress teachers have been under since 2011 trying to do what we’ve always done with fewer people and more demands translates to shorter life expectancy. If you’re a rich white guy just hanging out making deals with your buddies to make their lives more lucrative, you probably aren’t hurting much from those cuts. If you’re a teacher voting for that guy, I hope you know why.

If you’re a teacher who hasn’t voted yet or wonders if they’ll even bother, stop it right now and go vote TOMORROW. If you’re in Wichita Falls, you can vote at Home Depot or Sikes Senter. (And we wonder why our kids can’t spell!)

Obviously, I voted for Davis and Van de Putte because I believe the Perry administration along with Abbott and Patrick have done their best to destroy public education in Texas, Texas public school teachers and OUR CHILDREN. Between the ridiculous testing requirements and the budget cuts, we are truly at an impasse.

Get educated on the issues–the REAL ISSUES not those stupid Patrick commercials where he claims to be pro teacher which is the funniest thing I’ve heard all year–AND VOTE. Because if you don’t, when you get another prep next year or a pay raise that’s barely visible because of insurance adjustments or you’re sitting in a class with a kid who’s crying because they think they have no chance of graduating because they can’t pass the 5-hour ELA test, you can look in the mirror and say you’re to blame.

I know you’re tired. I know you feel powerless. If you don’t vote you ARE powerless. If you do, if we all do, we will have a voice.

In 2011 I marched with thousand of others in the Save Texas Schools rally in Austin and I helped organize the local rally here, and everywhere I went I heard teachers say, enough is enough.

It’s time to prove it.

There’s only one way to truly Save our Schools.

Vote.

Advertisements

The Only Wrong Answer: Silence

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. –Martin Luther King Jr.

I never expected my Plea From a Teacher letter to go viral. I blog about education issues all the time. I even helped lead a local Save Texas Schools rally last year. The fact that so many people (around 3000 that I know of after less than 48 hours) have read the post and shared it by retweeting, posting on Facebook, commenting here on the blog or privately, gives me hope that we can change the direction of education today.
If you’re in Texas, the Save Texas Schools rally is in Austin March 24 from 11-2:30 at the capitol. You should be there and make your voices heard. We can’t wait for the Texas Legislature to be in session to get involved in the dialogue. We need to be out there now. If you’re not in Texas, get involved in your state.
Also, teachers, make sure you’re talking to parents. Parents are as frustrated as we are. AND don’t believe for a minute this is a teachers vs administrators issue. Trust me when I say administrators at all levels are as frustrated by the state of public education as classroom teachers are.
Current educators need to be the driving force of education reform. NOT business owners, not testing companies, not media pundits. We cannot sit silently while children suffer and school systems collapse. We must be vocal about change. The world has changed and education has changed along with it. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Finally, remember, tests aren’t evil. Tests are simply supposed to be tools to measure data. When tests drive everything about education, that’s a problem. Check out this link for more on that. Be prepared to be stunned by how we ended up with this test-centered public education atmosphere. I certainly was. Now more than ever I know it’s time to speak up.
SILENCE IS THE ONLY WRONG ANSWER!
Thank you.

Follow me on twitter @marybethleeybnp

WHY

Save Texas Public Schools Rally
Memorial Stadium
Thursday April 14 8-9(ish)

A good friend asked me why we were rallying, what we hoped to accomplish. I thought I’d share my answer here:
What we hope to accomplish: to give people the chance to show they support public education, and to do so before the Senate votes.
What will the outcome be: I don’t know. I was in Austin March 12 with over 11000 others marching. We were there to make our voices heard. If we don’t try, we won’t ever know.
But I do know public education is essential to the United States. It leads to the American Dream. Without it, there is no escape from poverty.
I know teachers usually don’t rally. (We gripe to each other, but we don’t say enough is enough.) Right now I’m hearing a lot of complaints in the community. People believe Rick Perry when he says public schools are the problem, especially when we don’t speak up to say he’s wrong.
Public education is at risk here. It’s real and it’s ugly and if we don’t speak up, we’ll be able to watch it die without ever even attempting to fight.
I can’t sit back and do nothing.

Vote Set for Tomorrow

I’ve written my letters. Tomorrow the House vote on public education funding. It’s not the end of the battle, but it’s going to give district’s a little more direction. So far it’s looking ugly. Today I judged a prompt about a new kind of secondary school. Only core academics, no electives, no sports. It’s the wave of the future if something doesn’t change.
Until the state govt. realizes they made changes in 2006 and haven’t funded us fully since, until they solve the problem they created then, things will only get worse.

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.

Why I’m Marching

For years I’ve said teachers like to complain, but they don’t ever want to DO anything about it.
Welcome to the 2011 budget crisis.
In the last six weeks, I’ve heard people all over the state call my fellow teachers and me part time employees who whine all the time about how little they’re being paid.
My response: We’re not part time employees. We work full time for close to 10 months a year. Yes, we have summers off. We don’t get paid for those summers off. Our paychecks for nine months are spread out over 12. I worked 64 hours at school last week. That doesn’t include the weekend I spent with students at a UIL academic meet. I average 50 hours of week at school. I’m not alone. Don’t get me started on the load English teachers take home with them. Next year that work load will increase astronomically as our class sizes increase.
I’ve heard that Texas teachers in particular are responsible for the budget crisis. To that, I say check out the wfisd.net homepage. It explains the crisis fully. Needless to say, teachers are not to blame.
I’ve heard I get all sorts of amazing benefits as a teacher, so I should just stop griping. I don’t know what benefits people are talking about. Yes, I have health insurance. It’s expensive, and I pay co-pays and try to find in-network doctors to see. If I have an emergency, I’m out of luck. No urgent care facility within 100 miles is covered on my insurance. The Texas state government has already warned I’ll be paying more next year.
Someone actually said teachers wanted something for nothing when it came to retirement. I have to work 20 years to get partial retirement, 30 for somewhat full retirement, and that retirement is funded at a terrible rate. My retired friends haven’t seen a cost of living increase in over 10 years, and now, the government’s cutting what they contribute, which is very little already. AND we don’t get social security, even if we paid into it.
Texas schools are in danger, folks. Real danger. What that translates into for me is our KIDS are in danger. They’ve been tested to death, and next year, they’ll be tested even more, by over worked, under paid teachers who are taking the brunt of state budget cuts by people in office who don’t have a clue what we do in the classroom even though I think they must’ve spent some time in the classroom in the past. They must not remember what it was like. In the last handful of years I’ve watched more and more unfunded mandates take away from our school districts, and it’s time I speak up.
One voice is nothing. But if every teacher in Texas speaks up, we can’t be ignored.
Will marching change anything? I have no idea. I don’t think Governor Perry cares a thing about public education. It seems to me he’s all about charter schools, vouchers, big business and re-election.
By marching though, I’ll know when the changes come that I made my voice heard. That I said enough is enough. That I fought for my kids.
Save Texas Schools…before it’s too late!
I got this from a story on Huffington Post, and I loved it!
As the poet Shelley wrote, that “We are many, they are few.” But a muscle doesn’t mean a damn thing unless you flex.

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.

Thank you, Lord!

1 week left in the deadline year from hell. Thank goodness for the last three days of last week, which were ridiculously long, but fun and inspirational because of the kids there working. Wish more would’ve been there, but, hey, the ones who were there, were rock stars. Hopefully after this week, life will revert to something resembling normal. Saturday I hope to march in the Save Texas Schools rally. Unfortunately, a lot of the general public thinks teachers get the same kind of benefits as regular state employees. They say things like “We pay in to our retirement and get matching from our employers, why shouldn’t you?” They miss the point that we PAY INTO TRS, and we earn crappy returns on that, AND we don’t get a Social Security option. They say we’re “part-time” employees because we get summers off, without taking into consideration that we’re paid for the months we work, but that pay is spread out over 12 months. That most teachers spend hours and hours at home or after hours in their schools working and never see a dime for that time, and most teachers don’t want to be compensated for that after hours time. They say, “shoot with all this technology, we don’t even need teachers anymore.” I teach some of the best and brightest students in my high performing school, and yet, I still have to reteach concepts on a regular basis. We have amazing discussions and debates over tough topics. A machine’s never taking the place of a real teacher. The end.
Texas teachers aren’t unionized. We haven’t broken the state. (Testing might have, but WE have not!) We’re public servants, and we, for the most part, love our jobs. Taking money out of our pockets isn’t going to fix the economy. It’s going to plunge the state into a very bad place. Not to mention what it will do to our students. I taught 3-yr-old choir one year. I had 10-15 lovelies every Wednesday. I can’t imagine classrooms of 4-6-yr-olds packed with 24+ children and teacher charged to TEACH not babysit. Yes, we have a constitutional obligation to stay in budget. So look at what we’re wasting money on and cut there. OR if it’s costing that much more to run the state, bite the bullet and RAISE taxes. AND hell-o AUstin, that Rainy Day Fund? It’s pouring outside. I think the word FLOOD comes to mind. Dip into the fund. We have it for emergencies. $27 billion short IS an emergency.