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Survey: Texas Teacher Morale Plummeting

November 17, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - A non-scientific survey of more than 3,000 school employees across Texas seems to reveal a significant, system-wide decline in morale following this year's state budget cuts, according to Linda Bridges. She is the president of Texas AFT, the union that conducted the online survey.

"Eighty-one percent of the respondents said the school climate for students, teachers and staff is much worse than it was last year."

Facing larger class sizes and fewer resources, many teachers constantly worry that they cannot meet administrator demands or student needs, she explains - so much so that they are now contemplating other lines of work. Ninety-two percent of respondents reported layoffs in their districts of teachers, assistants, cafeteria workers and custodians.

A majority of state legislators this past session were determined to balance the budget with a cuts-only approach, saying services could be adequately maintained without new revenues. Bridges says the impact of that decision is now being felt in all education areas.

"Art and music, early childhood, P.E. and athletics - cut. Also foreign language. And increases in class size, across the board, from elementary to secondary."

She says teachers are facing added pressure preparing students for a new, more rigorous, statewide test to be launched next spring. Lawmakers mandated the STAAR exam at the worst possible time, she adds.

One warning in the debate over education budget cuts was that the funding burden would simply shift to local taxing districts if the state reduced its share of aid. Bridges says that is already happening. She points to statewide elections earlier this month in which the majority of communities that voted on education-funding measures approved of tax increases.

"At the local level, parents and taxpayers support their public schools, and they want them to be able to do the job for their kids. That's a message that the legislature just didn't get."

Unfortunately, she says, local communities cannot make up the entire shortfall on their own.

The full survey results will be posted at 11 a.m. today at www.texasaft.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX