Hundreds of Texas teachers rally against special session issues


All major statewide teacher groups and many of their members decended onto the Texas Capitol Monday to decry major parts of Gov. Greg Abbott’s education agenda that lawmakers are slated to tackle during the special legislative session.

Traveling from across the state, hundreds of current and retired public school teachers wore apple-red t-shirts as they rallied in the blistering heat against what they called state leaders’ attempts to implement unfunded teacher pay raises, privatize education, and silence teachers.

“When the voices of all of us along with the parents and community members who support us rise up in the next election, first they will fear us then finally they will hear us. Save our public schools,” said Troy Reynolds, a Splendora school district administrator and founder of Texans for Public Education, which coordinated the event.

Many of the teachers associations that rallied also signed a letter sent to Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Joe Straus on Monday, disagreeing with the way Abbott and Patrick want to handle most of the education-related special session items.

Reflecting Abbott’s call, bills that have been filed so far that aren’t going to pass muster with public education advocacy groups include one that would prohibit school districts from deducting teacher association dues from teacher paychecks. During the rally, an airplane circled the Capitol toting a banner that read “KIDS BEFORE UNIONS #SETEDFREE.”

Another bill would allow state money to be redirected from public schools to help students with special needs pay for private school tuition.

Last week, Patrick announced that the Senate intended to file a bill to give teachers a $1,000 pay raise that Abbott has called for as well as a $600 to $1,000 yearly bonus, depending on how long the teacher has worked. Patrick said that existing funds would be used to pay for the raises and bonuses. Eventually he wants school districts to reallocate their funds and if voters agree, lottery money to maintain the bonuses and raises.

“The agenda is an agenda of Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the Austin school district’s largest labor group. “It’s not the people’s agenda, it’s not public education’s agenda…and that’s the problem with it. They want to push through a ridiculous $1,000 teacher pay raise that will be put on districts, not the state. It’s going to be tied to accountability and merit. They’re doing that to tease people…to give up teacher rights, to make it easier to terminate, to give up your voice as a union member by taking away payroll deduction.”



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