Phillip Martin writes a letter to State Sen. Florence Shapiro:
It has come to my understanding that you recently added a provision to the committee substitute to House Bill 1 that stops the Texas Education Association from ordering new elementary school math textbooks. As you should be well aware, the current math textbooks do not include material that is tested on the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test. Part of HB 1 will also include money for a merit-based teacher pay raise.
How are students supposed to pass a test if the material covered in the test isn't in their textbooks? How are teachers supposed to raise their student's TAKS scores - and, thereafter, their salaries - if you are forcing them to teach with textbooks that still say that Ann Richards is Governor? How do you expect Texas school children to keep up with students from other states and other countries if they don't have the tools they need to succeed?
Texas teachers may see a salary increase of $2,000 under proposed state legislation.
But they might lose a $500 stipend that helps cover health insurance.
Teachers' aides and other support personnel would also take a hit, receiving no stipend and no raise.
Groups representing Texas educators voiced their appreciation of lawmakers' attempt to boost teacher salaries but expressed disappointment at the loss of the stipend. Essentially, they say, if the proposed legislation passes, they'll get only a $1,500 raise.
"You can couch it as a pay raise, or you can couch it as restoration [of the healthcare stipend], but it doesn't count twice," said Jeri Stone, executive director and general counsel of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.
State lawmakers have chipped away at the stipend since 2001, when they gave educators $1,000 to offset the rising cost of healthcare.
It was breakthrough legislation, said Richard Kouri, director of public affairs for the Texas State Teachers Association. The state was taking some responsibility for providing resources for employee benefits.
In 2003, the Legislature took half of that stipend from teachers and cut it entirely for administrators, but lawmakers promised the full funding would return for teachers in 2005. It did not.
According to House Bill 1, support staff, including teachers' aides, bus drivers, custodians and secretaries, would lose their remaining $500 stipend in 2007.
Teachers won't get their stipend, either. They would instead get a $2,000 raise and could set aside an "employee-determined portion" of their salary each year to cover health insurance premiums.
The raise is not enough, teachers groups said, especially if the healthcare stipend is eliminated.