Gov. Greg Abbott claims to be confused about why there is a teacher shortage in our public schools. We’re not sure why he has questions, though, considering so many of the present issues teachers point to stem from his constant dismissal and undermining of public education. Nevertheless, on March 7, Abbott asked the Texas Education Agency to create a task force to address ongoing teacher shortages in public schools. It originally included only two teachers–but after criticism from various groups and union officials, 24 more teachers were added.
While the task force’s work has just begun, many educational organizations and advocates are all too familiar with the issues that persist in Texas public schools.
Experts have been adamant that the first step to addressing staffing shortages is to pay teachers more. Yet, Abbott continued to push “alternative certification programs,” not raising teacher salaries, in his task force announcement.
There was no mention of the pandemic, either, though educators and community members know that this placed pressure on public schools, with TEA data showing that 139,095 public school staff members have tested positive for COVID.
As these numbers rose, Abbott turned parents’ and educators’ pleas for mask mandates at schools into political theatre. The same Abbott chose to abandon public schools when it came time to apply for pandemic-relief funds–only requesting support for non-public schools.
We’re losing passionate teachers every day. With each loss, our students’ futures suffer. Still, Abbott perpetuates the lie that he supports teachers. Back in January, Abbott rolled out his plan for a “Parental Bill of Rights,” which once again signaled support for private school voucher schemes and other policies that could cripple public school funding. Much of the language in the “bill” continues to pit parents against teachers, pushing false narratives about parents not having access to the curriculum, among other inflammatory assertions.
And whether it’s through maliciousness or sheer ignorance, each of his actions continues to disproportionately harm low-income and minority communities. While it’s great that Texas public schools have become more diverse, this means every blow to public education hurts already marginalized communities.
Abbott’s creation of this task force is disingenuous, and his track record of denigrating public education clearly demonstrates that we can’t count on him to make the positive changes needed to support students and teachers.
Educators dedicate their lives to the profession to help students learn and grow. Attempting to do that important work in a state with a government that’s committed to stripping diverse stories and uncomfortable historical truths from curriculums and libraries has become insurmountable for many teachers. Teachers often play roles in children’s lives that go far beyond instruction – mentors, emotional support, and champions of their students’ dreams – roles they are surely not adequately compensated or recognized for.
We will not be silent as politicians exploit parents, children, and teachers for political purposes.