Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Perry: Don’t blame the state for teacher layoffs

Ok, so all politics is local but it's the state that creates policies and mandates that creates a demand for non-teaching personnel (many of whom are trying to keep schools afloat as they negotiate being inundated with testing and narrow "efficient" assessments). It's offensive to see a state elected official absolve himself from having any role in what's happening in education.


By Jason Embry | Austin American-Statesman
Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 11:06 AM

At a press conference this morning to discuss states’ rights, Gov. Rick Perry was asked about the thousands of Texas teachers expected at the Capitol this weekend to protest legislative proposals to cut billions of dollars in funding from school districts. Those proposals have prompted school districts across the state to begin laying off employees, including teachers, and the districts are preparing for many more layoffs to follow in the coming months.

“The lieutenant governor, the speaker, their colleagues aren’t going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell,” Perry said. “That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts.”

He said school districts, like families and businesses, need to set priorities when funding dips.

“Over the course of the last decade, we have seen a rather extraordinary amount of nonclassroom employees added to school rolls,” Perry said. “So are the administrators and the school boards going to make a decision to reduce those, or are they going to make a decision to reduce the number of teachers in the classroom? I certainly know where I would point.”

But data from the Texas Education Agency does not suggest a surge in nonteachers over the last 10 years.

In 2000, according to TEA’s website, 48.7 percent of school employees across the state were nonteachers. In 2010, that number was 49.5 percent.

Robert Scott, Perry’s appointed education commissioner, has said he needs at least $6 billion more than legislative leaders have proposed just to keep the schools functioning.

On this weekend’s rally, Perry added, “I welcome folks to come to Austin and be engaged in the process. But I also remind them that Austin, Texas, particularly when we’re talking about schools, is not the be-all, end-all from the standpoint of decision-making.”

Lawmakers have proposed budgets that would leave schools more than $9 billion short of the money they need to fulfill current law. Many school districts have looked first to reductions in their administrative and nonteaching force before cutting teachers.

“I don’t think we’d be talking about layoffs if we weren’t talking about $9.4 billion in cuts in state funding,” said Richard Kouri of Texas State Teachers Association. “It’s disingenuous.”

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