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Is Texas’ Education Agency Commissioner Undermining Public Schools?

On Tuesday, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath and school safety chief John Scott testified before the new Public Education chair Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Killeen) and the rest of the committee, where they covered everything from teacher pay raise to safety in public schools.

During the hearing, Morath raised awareness for teacher pay in rural areas, where it’s about $8,000 less because of fewer students and lower student-teacher ratios.

“We do think it’s worth y’all to think about that specific issue in ISDs with 5,000 or fewer kids.”

However, later on, the commissioner claimed that teachers in Texas are currently receiving the highest pay they’ve ever had – sparking a heated debate with Rep. James Talarico (D-Austin). While Morath cited an average salary of below $59,000 as evidence of increased teacher pay, Talarico argued that TEA’s data did not account for inflation, arguing that pay is actually down when compared to the cost of living in Texas – Talarico filed a bill this session to raise teacher pay by $15,000, and a 25% pay increase for school support staff.

In a statement that seemed to impugn Texas’ public schools for how money is spent, Morath went on to say that  “more money doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes.” In the past TEA has said that every legislative session more and more money gets poured into Texas Public Schools, and there have not been improvements.

An inside source from the capitol, claims “this isn’t the first time Morath has tried to spread a false narrative.” He recently said that there is no teacher shortage, but rather that public school districts have used ESSER funds to hire non-teaching staff, which is the reason they don’t have money to hire any more teachers.  Morath has made this statement more than once, although TEA requires ESSER funds be spent on non-recurring costs. Teacher salaries are recurring costs.

Other than pay, Morath has attributed Texas’ teacher exodus crisis to “work-life balance.”  According to TEA data, teachers are spending seven hours per week preparing their lessons, but they report they are only given three hours and 45 mins per week on average for all planning activities. This means teachers are going beyond the bell to finish prepping.

“We need to give teachers the resources they need to not work 70 hours a week,” Morath said.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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