Tag Archives: Ginger Franks

ATPE officers make the rounds in D.C.

Things were certainly heated in Washington, D.C. last week—June 16–19—as ATPE State President Ginger Franks, Vice President Richard Wiggins, Executive Director Gary G. Godsey and Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg brought Texas weather (98 degrees) and hot issues to the Texas congressional delegation and U.S. Department of Education.

Our team attended meetings with key Texas Congressmen who serve on the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce as well as majority and minority staff members of other Congressmen on the committee. We met with the two Texas Senators, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz, and Texas Congressmen serving on the House Ways and Means committees, which oversees the Social Security system.

We focused on educating Congress about the recent federal requirement that Texas institute a new principal and teacher evaluation system (that accountability based on student test scores) as a condition of receiving a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The waiver exempts Texas from accountability sanctions from the outdated accountability standards under current law; the outdated accountability standards are a result of more than a decade of Congressional gridlock and inability to update the ESEA. The DOE is using this inaction to force states to adopt several “reforms,” including the teacher evaluation piece, in exchange for flexibility under current law.

ATPE has worked hard with Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams and the Texas Education Agency to create an evaluation system primarily based on recently adopted state standards of practice for what an educator should know and be able to do. On the test score portion of the evaluation, ATPE recommended using student scores aggregated at the campus level so that all educators are held accountable for every student on the campus, instead of using classroom scores at the individual teacher level. We have also asked for an extension of the pilot program’s timeline so that the program’s first year can be properly evaluated prior to full implementation of the system in all districts.

During our meeting with the DOE, we were pleased to hear that the department has recently decided to consider requests for more flexibility, and we are hopeful Commissioner Williams will request and receive more time. We also hope that the Commissioner will continue conversation about using campus scores, which we believe are more accurate and create a sense of campus collaboration instead of competition, anger and fear of the unknown.

Our message to our Congressmen was to please help us persuade the DOE that Texas does need that flexibility and that we would prefer to handle our own state-level teacher evaluation system. In addition, we advocated for changes to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a Social Security provisions that effects public servants who don’t contribute to Social Security for at least thirty years. The formula used for the WEP is arbitrary and is not proportional to the number of years paid in, unlike the formula that applies to all other Americans who are covered by Social Security.

SBOE approves new graduation requirements

Today the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted 14-1 on final rules to implement new graduation requirements mandated by last year’s House Bill (HB) 5. Facing pressure from many stakeholders with opposing viewpoints, the board struck a compromise today that ATPE believes will allow ample flexibility for school districts and students while helping ensure that students are prepared for post-secondary success.

At the center of the debate was the treatment of Algebra II, which prior to the passage of HB 5, was a statutorily mandated course for graduation under the Recommended and Advanced high school programs. Through HB 5, the legislature created a single high school graduation plan based on a foundation curriculum plus subject-specific endorsement areas. In doing so, legislators eliminated the specific mandate in statute that Algebra II be taken as the third math course required for graduation. Even though the statutes as amended by HB 5 no longer specify Algebra II as one of the required math courses, state law gives the SBOE authority to adopt additional or more specific graduation requirements beyond what the legislature mandates.

The board decided today that only students pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) endorsement under the new high school diploma structure should be required to take Algebra II. Students pursuing other endorsements may choose to take Algebra II or another math course from among a short list; that list will soon include two new advanced math classes, algebraic reasoning and statistics, which are currently being developed. The lone dissenting vote today came from SBOE District 1 member Martha Dominguez, who felt that Algebra II was an important factor in students’ college success and should be required for all students.

Education stakeholders also voiced much concern in the recent months of SBOE deliberations about the future of speech courses. While not required by law, the SBOE has required students to earn one-half credit in speech as a graduation requirement since 1996. HB 5 did not address the speech requirement, again leaving the board with discretion to decide whether or not to continue its requirement. The board’s preliminary proposal in November would have eliminated the speech requirement altogether. Recent surveys conducted by ATPE and by SBOE District 9 member Thomas Ratliff showed strong support among educators for continuing a speech requirement at the state level, but several school districts urged the board to eliminate the requirement. SBOE members settled this week on a plan to designate Communications Applications—the primary course used to fulfill the current speech requirement—as one of the courses that can satisfy the fourth-year advanced English course required by HB 5. The speech course will no longer be required, but districts must still ensure that all students master certain communications-related skills.

Read the Texas Education Agency’s press release on the new graduation plan approved today. Also, check out today’s press statement by ATPE State President Ginger Franks in response to the vote.

ATPE State President Ginger Franks’ editorial on teacher salaries

The following editorial by ATPE State President Ginger Franks appeared in today’s edition of the Austin American-Statesman:

Others Say: Texas teachers

Franks: Quality education means investing in educators

By Ginger Franks – Special Contributor

I started teaching when I was 22 years old. I taught English and speech therapy to special education students at Woden Independent School District in rural East Texas. My first school year teaching was the 1982-83 academic year, and I made $11,100. In two years, my salary was raised to $17,000 because the state increased the base pay for teachers. I was lucky to receive that raise.

This is my 32nd year teaching special education, and my average annual salary has remained at about $46,000 for the past 11 years. Despite receiving exemplary job evaluations, I have not had a significant raise since 2002. Like most teachers, I entered public education because I love children, and I have a burning desire to inspire students to be successful — not because I expected to get rich. Many educators share this philosophy, but we also want to feel valued in our profession.

I have never blamed the school districts entirely for low teacher salaries. Districts do the best they can with the funding provided by the state. Texas is simply not a top spender in public education. In February, a judge ruled the state’s school finance system unconstitutional as it fails to provide adequate and equitable funding. The state was recently ranked ninth in the top 10 states that spend the least on public education per pupil, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

According to the Texas Education Agency, the average teacher salary for beginning teachers was $40, 911 for the 2011-12 school year and $58,031 for teachers with more than 20 years of experience. The average superintendent salary for 2012–2013 was $127,358, a 3.5 percent increase from 2011–2012, according to a report from the Texas Association of School Boards and Texas Association of School Administrators. Average superintendent salaries range from $86,782 in districts with fewer than 500 students to $281,722 in districts with more than 50,000 students.

The majority of a school district’s budget goes toward employee salaries, but you would never know it when it comes to teacher pay. In 2007, my annual salary was $46,630. Last year, I received a salary increase of $340—my first raise in five years. Most teachers do not see their salary increase significantly, even after reaching 20 years of experience.

Many rural school districts across the state do not allocate the funds to pay teachers more. Some are only able to pay $500 to $1,000 a year above the state minimum, if anything. And when teachers factor in rising health insurance premiums, they really don’t see a difference in their paychecks. Certainly, many Texas professionals and their families are also feeling the effects of these same economic issues, but I am convinced that in order to remain nationally and globally competitive, our future generations will need a world-class education. To retain world-class educators, we need to assess what a professional can earn in teaching versus other professions.

Teacher salary affects teacher quality. The reason Texas has difficulties in retaining new, younger public education teachers is because it is quite difficult to support oneself and a family on a teacher’s salary. The work demands and stress of the job, along with the low pay, make it harder for them to justify their love of teaching children. Oftentimes, a teacher with two to three years of experience will leave for a job that offers more pay, less stress and better work hours. Despite what some might think, teachers who are off work during the summer are not paid for that time. Some teachers even get part-time jobs to supplement the income lost during this time.

When teachers take on the incredible responsibility of educating our future leaders, it’s not an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week gig. It’s a commitment from the heart. Teachers want their students to grow, to feel validated, to love learning, so they spend their nights and weekends crafting lesson plans, grading papers and volunteering their time to extracurricular activities. Teachers believe all children deserve a happy, safe, supportive learning environment, so they spend their own money on classroom decorations, project supplies, and meals — even toothbrushes — for students in need. Teaching is an honorable profession, but society does not always treat it as such. Teachers need to know they are supported by the community, parents, business leaders and lawmakers. If we truly want quality teachers in the classroom, we have to give them quality pay because teachers deserve it.

Franks, a 31-year education veteran, is a special education teacher and president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.