Special to The Dallas Examiner
AUSTIN – The Texas Education Agency today announced the creation of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force to help address staffing challenges facing Texas public schools.
While the continued population growth of Texas was already contributing to a staffing shortage in some of the state’s urban and suburban public school districts, schools in various rural areas, and also, those requiring certain specialized teaching positions were also previously experiencing staffing difficulties. COVID has only further amplified this challenge; and spikes in COVID cases have led to many public schools across Texas being short-staffed and unable to find substitute teachers to help fill in where needed.
Additionally, over the last two years, nearly $18 billion in COVID-19 relief funding has been distributed to school systems, allowing for a critical increase in the number of teachers, staff, and other priority support positions needing to be filled in public schools throughout Texas.
“Teachers are the single most important school-based factor affecting student outcomes,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “The Teacher Vacancy Task Force will further ensure our ability to provide the best guidance, support, and resources to help schools find and retain the teachers they need for all their students.”
TEA launched the task force to ensure that Texas schools are equipped with a comprehensive set of strategies to address these challenges, working to:
- Understand the challenges districts are currently facing related to teacher vacancies.
- Share best practices for addressing critical teacher vacancy and shortage areas, including exploring opportunities for certification, placement, and hiring flexibilities.
- Develop recommendations for regulatory or other policy changes for TEA.
- Provide feedback on TEA initiatives designed to help impact vacancies.
The task force will rely heavily on the presence and input of current teachers; additionally, TEA plans to have a designated teacher panel in future task force meetings to ensure that the agency is receiving guidance and feedback from a diverse and representative range of teachers across Texas.
The task force was to be comprised of leaders in public education hailing from a variety of districts, geographies, and student populations from around the state.
However, it’s current make up includes two teachers – from Highland Park ISD and McAllen ISD, 16 superintendents and one assistant superintendent, seven chief and executive directors of human resource, a chief operations officer and an executive director talent development.
“We have a task force looking at strategies to retain teachers and only two of its 28 members are teachers. Not only is this a poor makeup for a task force, but it also is disrespectful and degrading,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo stated. “Do we need all stakeholders and experts to be represented in a task force on teacher “vacancy,” as the Texas Education Agency oddly describes it? Yes, but that doesn’t mean we need to pack it with superintendents and other administrators.
“Who knows better how to retain teachers than teachers who have been retained? This board should be full of them. Superintendents and administrators may know the challenges of recruiting teachers, but the real input from teachers in the trenches about the stresses they face daily is essential. In our survey that showed that 66% of teachers are considering leaving the profession, they cite professional disrespect, heavy workloads, and shrinking paychecks as the reason they might quit. And we need to hear educators’ voices on this task force now to immediately address that.
“Now is the time to listen to teachers.”
There were no representatives from Dallas, Fort Worth or Houston ISDs – three of the largest school districts in Texas.
The task force plan to meet every other month for one year, with Morath and agency leadership regularly facilitating discussions with task force members, while including insights gathered from experts throughout the state of Texas, including direct feedback from teachers.
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