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EduLege Tracker 4-5-18

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EduLege Update Volume VI, Number 20
April 5, 2018
By Andy Welch
A Service of the Texas School Public Relations Association

Will they walk?
Following the walk-outs and protests by teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and now Oklahoma—over demands for better pay, better funding for their schools, and better working conditions—Editorial writer Michael Lindenberger recently posed this question in the Dallas Morning News:

“Will Texas teachers be next? Should they be?

“Why not? Nothing else has seemed to work to get state lawmakers to spend more on an education system whose funding is so bad that in 2014 after a 12-week trial a state district judge ruled it was literally illegal.

“Even as Texas' need for a trained and productive work force—that is, an educated one—becomes more and more acute, lawmakers keep shrinking the state's share of overall school funding. What's it going to take to shake them out of this downward spiral?”

* * *

Although there’s little indication—so far—that Texas teachers will go on strike, as their colleagues in other states have done, Texas educators have long been unhappy with how the Legislature funds public school, affecting their pay and benefits.

Texas was 27th in the nation for teacher pay in 2016, according to the latest report from the National Education Association. That year, the average teacher salary in the state was $51,890, or about $6,500 below the national average.

Salaries and benefits easily comprise the largest percentage of any school districts’ budget. School officials often say they can’t afford pay raises because the current school funding formulas are grossly outdated and the Legislature continues to cut state funding to local districts.

“I think that the same anger that is bubbling up in those states is bubbling beneath the surface here in Texas,” said Louis Malfaro, President of Texas’ chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

“There’s a crisis in leadership in the state right now around education,” Mr. Malfaro said. “Texas has done some really good stuff, set some high goals. … And yet, there’s no one out there who holds statewide office who is a true leader on public and higher ed.”

If not a new car, then how about more money for schools?
Republican Governor Mary Fallin is doing little to endear herself to striking Oklahoma teachers and their allies.

“Teachers want more," Governor Fallin said, dismissing the teachers’ demands for more money for salaries and Oklahoma schools. “But it's kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better car.”

Governor Fallin has been criticized for her absence at protests at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Governor told Oklahoma legislators not to “neglect other areas of need in the state,” when considering pay increases for teachers.

“We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state such as corrections and health and human services as we continue to consider additional education funding measures," Governor Fallin said.

But it’s well worth the money…
In a new study, researchers say that investing in public education can lead to more upward economic mobility, lower teen pregnancy rates, and help ease income inequality.

“It's something we've long suspected, but this study really confirms that there's a strong link between the quality of the schools you go to and the opportunities you have later in life,” said Stephan Goetz, Professor of Agricultural and Regional Economics at Penn State University and Director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “The better your school, the better your economic opportunities.”

The study, which focused on public spending in education and the returns that are achieved from those dollars spent, indicates that communities that invested more in education have lower drop-out rates and fewer teen pregnancies.

The researchers, who released their findings in a recent issue of Economic Development Quarterly, added that reducing the high school dropout rate had nearly twice the beneficial effect on upward economic mobility as on reducing teen birth rates.

According to the researchers, poor school quality can lead to a cascade of economic and social ills. For example, Professor Goetz said that the lower the school quality, the higher the dropout rate, which can lead to higher numbers of teen pregnancies.

The full article can be downloaded here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0891242417752436

Young and dumb…
Superintendent Lance Hindt has apologized to Katy School District employees for what he said was the negative attention that the community has received since he was accused last month of having been a bully in junior high school.

Superintendent Hindt has denied any part of the almost 40-year-old allegations that were made against him by Katy resident Greg Gay, during a work session of the Katy School Board.

Mr. Gay accused the young Mr. Hindt of attacking him in a boy's bathroom while they both attended West Memorial Junior High. Another former student has since come forward to support Mr. Gay's account of what happened that day.

In his letter to district employees, Superintendent Hindt says a turning point in his life occurred in 1992 when he listened to a sermon by Reverend Ed Young, senior pastor of Houston's Second Baptist Church.

“It was at this time that I wanted a personal relationship with my lord and savior. Knowing that my past had been washed away and I was a renewed person, I hitched a ride on a wonderful journey that has led me to where I am today," he wrote.

“But I recognize, I am not a perfect person; none of us is. I certainly wasn't as a teenager, and I am not as an adult,” Superintendent Hindt said in his statement. “When I was young and dumb—I did dumb things.”

I can see clearly…
As is occurring across the state and nation, heightened security concerns have led the Ennis School District to take additional precautions to protect its 5,842 students—including see-through backpacks.

A few of the changes will begin immediately: random backpack searches at the junior high and high school level and asking staff and visitors to park away from buildings.

Next school year, more procedures will be introduced. Students at every grade level, including Pre-K, will be required to have clear, PVC backpacks—like what’s now required at many professional and college sporting events.

Students at the junior high and high school level will be required to carry an ID badge. The district will install security gates throughout its campuses and add more police officers and canine unit visits.

Classroom doors will be locked during the school day and Ennis will add more security cameras over the next five years.

“Some procedures will not be a convenience to students and staff,” Superintendent John Chapman acknowledged. “Unfortunately, heightened security is not a convenience. Look at our airports and large events we attend. Security takes time, and we ask for your patience.”

Lulu, ask Leg Council to draft me something like this for next January…
A bill which requires that Tennessee schools prominently display the national motto “In God We Trust” is headed to the governor for his signature.
The legislation overwhelmingly passed the Tennessee House, with 81 of the 99 members voting in favor of it. The bill had earlier cleared the State Senate.

The bill requires that Tennessee schools display the motto in a prominent location where students are likely to see it, such as a school entryway, cafeteria, or common area.

The Tennessee legislation appears to be a part of a wave of similar “In God We Trust” bills that are under consideration by state legislatures across the country. Similar legislation has been introduced in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming.

EduLege is provided by the Texas School Public Relations Association as a service to its members.

Long-time TSPRA member Andy Welch, the retired Communication Director for the Austin School District, compiles and writes EduLege.  Questions or comments may be directed to him at andywelch1@gmail.com.

For more updates on education news from throughout the state, visit the TSPRA website.