It looks to be a virtual meltdown and if you are a teacher that gets to keep their job you feel like you might be staring a nightmare directly in the face. Texas is facing enormous budget cuts and teacher’s jobs are just one of the many things on the line ready to be slashed and burned. I’m hearing stories that classrooms may begin to consist of 50-60 students and while there will be more students per classroom the class time will also be cut and rooms that are already filled to capacity will somehow be cramming even more students into the rooms.
But, the question I keep hearing is…why? Why is Texas being forced to slash the education budget and why is it that the teachers are the one’s being cut? Especially when education, including higher education, takes up more than HALF of the Texas budget?
Of the $80.6 billion in those accounts in the current budget, $35.2 billion goes to public education, $13.7 billion goes to higher education and $24.4 billion goes to health and human services.
Is it really that we don’t have enough money- even though we have nationally increased spending on education from just over $2,000 a year per student over the last few decades to over $11,567 (2008-2009) a year per student? In fact, if Texas’ 1,035 school districts were a single company, it would be the fifth largest employer… in the world! In the last decade, total spending rose nearly five times as fast as enrollment. Where is all of this money going and why don’t we have enough to keep and pay our teachers?
Facing an unprecedented budget shortfall, some lawmakers are questioning whether public schools spend too much on administration — or, more specifically, administrator pay. Atop that list are Texas’ superintendents, the chief executives at more than 1,000 districts statewide.
These officials are paid on average about $108,000 a year, according to the Texas Education Agency‘s list of salaries from the 2010-2011 academic year. But at least two dozen are paid more than $250,000, and not all run the largest districts. More than 50 school districts have more students than Beaumont Independent School District, for example, but its superintendent, Carrol Thomas, makes the most: $346,000.
Unfortunately, while the entitlement mentality is rampant among administration in various school districts, the problems go even further as exposed by Felicia Cravens of HTPS.
THIS FILE shows a comparison of twelve districts in the state of Texas and two local charter schools in the Houston area. When you look at it, you see some disturbing trends:
- KIPP Charter school has 1000 more students than the Fredericksburgh district but employs about the same number of teachers.
- KIPP also has higher student/teacher ratios, so that isn’t as important to learning as it would appear
- It isn’t just KIPP; both charter schools have very high student/staff and student/teacher ratios.
- KIPP has the lowest paid superintendent in the spreadsheet.
- Beaumont has the highest paid superintendent in the state.
- Beaumont and Houston lost students, lost teachers and added staff. Teachers are less than half the total staff now. Why are there more non-teachers than teachers employed by a school district?
What districts also don’t tell you is that when they incur bond debts for building, the money to pay the maintenance on those buildings doesn’t come out of the bond funds. It comes out of the same funds that are used to pay teacher salaries. Build too many buildings and there won’t be enough funding to pay the teachers that are supposed to teach there. That’s the real threat to teaching jobs; districts with huge appetites for building monuments to their administration, and districts that employ unsustainably top-heavy administrations.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. The problems continue to grow and a stunningly large source of our shortfall can be found right within most school administrations. A little known fact is that only half of our public school employees are actually teachers! In 1975, we had 2.5 teachers for every 1 non-teacher. But, as always with bureaucracies…they always grow and become bloated and eventually unsustainable. Today, the ratio has changed to a 1:1 ratio…1 teacher and 1 administrative job. But, why? Why do we need so many administrative jobs within the districts?
Since 2004, the number of kids in public schools has increased 7%; however, the number of support and administrative personnel has jumped to 20%. If we could manage to trim those numbers and reduce the number to a 3-teacher: 2-non-teacher ratio Texas would save more than $3.25 billion!
With these obvious problems, why is Texas firing their teachers as their first option? Teachers and parents have a right to be up in arms over this fact. None of us want our children to get lost in the sea of children that aren’t getting the time and attention that they deserve and that our taxes are paying for. If things get bad I have no problem pulling my kids out and putting them into a private education. However, not everybody has that option and the anxiety that they are feeling over this is very real.
Texas is right to balance this budget and to do so without raising our taxes or pulling from the “rainy day fund.” They have a sufficient amount of money already being collected from the taxpayer and should not be coming back to us with their hands extended for even more. Instead, they need to be held accountable to cut the spending- but they need to change course and start cutting the unnecessary and obvious fat and waste within the districts. Until that has been done and all of the many other options have been completely exhausted and drained, they need to stay out of the classrooms!