Hundreds of Texas teachers rally against special session issues


Speakers spoke against proposals for teacher pay raises and limiting due collection for teacher associations.

They also said they opposed bills to use state money to help some students pay for private school tuition.

More than 1,000 teachers and retired public school teachers, members of all major statewide teacher groups, descended onto the Capitol on Monday to decry major parts of Gov. Greg Abbott’s education agenda that lawmakers are slated to tackle during the special legislative session that starts Tuesday.

Traveling from across the state, the teachers wore red t-shirts as they rallied in the blistering heat against what they called state leaders’ attempts to privatize education and silence teachers by giving them a $1,000 pay raise without adding new money into the public education system.

“Gov. Abbott stands up and says his $1,000 pay raise is not an unfunded mandate. Well, I’m here to tell you if it walks … smells … quacks … like an unfunded mandate, it’s an unfunded mandate — and for you to say anything else, this smells like a fresh pile of cow chips,” said Michael Lee, the interim superintendent of the Booker school district in the Panhandle.

Lee was one of 11 speakers at the event organized by a 13,000-member Facebook group Texans for Public Education.

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

RELATED: The special legislative session starts Tuesday. Here’s what to expect.

Meanwhile, Abbott reiterated Monday that the pay raise would retain high-quality teachers, while Patrick said that critics of the plan want to implement a statewide income tax.

Garnering criticism for some education groups, bills that have been filed so far that align with Abbott’s agenda include one that would prohibit school districts from deducting teacher association dues from teacher paychecks.

Another bill would allow state money to be redirected from public schools to help students with special needs pay for private school tuition. Critics have said the bill would create a private school voucher system.

“It would create a class system because our neediest kids don’t have parents that can transport them to any school they want to go to,” said Stephanie Stoebe, a Round Rock school district elementary teacher, who attended the rally to oppose a voucher-like system. “Students who speak another language — their parents don’t understand the process to take advantage of a voucher.”

STARTS TUESDAY: What makes a special session so special?

Last week, Patrick unveiled a plan to give teachers a $1,000 pay raise, 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 — and if voters agree, lottery money would be used to maintain the bonuses and raises.

“I just think the pay raise is a little carrot, a distraction” from other education issues, said Christie Smith, a kindergarten school teacher in the Pflugerville school district.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine
George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

Former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized Sunday after “experiencing low blood pressure and fatigue,” spokesman Jim McGrath announced in a Twitter post. Bush was taken to Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, Maine. “He will likely remain there for a few days for observation,” McGrath said. “The former president...
Kyle police investigating dead bicyclist found along I-35
Kyle police investigating dead bicyclist found along I-35

Kyle police say they are investigating the death of a bicyclist who was found along Interstate 35 by a passing motorist. According to a news release, the roads in that area, the I-35 southbound exit ramp at exit 210 and Highway 81 west access will be shut down temporarily while investigators are on the scene. The victim is an adult male and police...
Man injured in North Austin stabbing, EMS says

NORTH AUSTIN EMS: Man injured in stabbing A man in his 30s was injured early Sunday after a stabbing in North Austin, officials said. Austin-Travis County EMS and Austin police responded to reports of stabbing at Rutland Drive and N. Lamar Blvd. shortly after midnight. Medics took the victim to Dell Seton Medical Center with serious, not expected to...
Man arrested after firing gun in crowded Sixth Street area, police say
Man arrested after firing gun in crowded Sixth Street area, police say

Austin police arrested early Sunday a man accused of firing a weapon in a crowded area on Sixth Street, according to an arrest affidavit. Officers responded just after 2 a.m. to the intersection of Sixth Street and San Jacinto Road after reports of shots being fired in the area. Police say the shooter, identified in the affidavit as 22-year old Keshawn...
Texas Digest: Officers say man brandished handgun before they shot him

SOUTHEAST TEXAS Officers kill man they say had gun Texas Rangers are investigating the fatal shooting of a 51-year-old man in Southeast Texas after authorities said he threatened officers with a handgun. Authorities said police from Silsbee and Hardin County sheriff’s deputies made a traffic stop Saturday and the man emerged from his truck carrying...
More Stories