How Unions and School Staffers Are Devaluing Education in South Texas

By Alex Gonzalez

According to a new report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF),  in Texas there are as many administrative staff in school districts  equal to the numbers of   teachers.  This teacher to administrative staffer ratio, or 1:1 ratio, in schools suggests that 40% of the money allocated to schools is not reaching the classrooms.  Instead it is being consumed by administrative bureaucracy and high salaries for unionized teachers, who receive annual raises but do not improve the quality of teaching.

 According to the report by the TPPF, Texas need to increase its education rate similar to what the state spends in education because over the course of the last decade, Texas has increased its education spending by more than 95%, from around $25 billion in 1999  to more than $50 billion 10 years later.  Yet with this amount of spending has not improved the academic achievements, nor has it been shown that the money was indeed spent in education during the same period.

Moreover,  among  the many principle management problems with public education, just like in other states, is teacher tenure, compensation practice, and Teacher’s unions.  But, the report makes it clear then, that teacher unions are only part of the public education system. For example, in Texas Public schools, the staff ratio of teaching to non-teaching  person is 1:1.  That means that for every instructor in front of a classroom,  there is either an administrator or  support  staffer working in the system as well.

“the State Salary Minimum Schedule , and other contract employers, drain the state of  its education funds because the Salary Schedule is to reward longevity.”  In essence, the longer a teachers stays in the profession in Texas,  the more they are going to be paid each year, regardless of performance quality.  Essentially,  this model does not provides an incentive for educators to improve; as long as they do a job well enough not to get fired, each year they get a raise.   Also,  very few school districts pay the minimum base line in Texas;  a great majority of school districts pay their teachers more than the required baseline salary.”

The report by the TPPF recommends that  schools must be allowed to  reward  teachers based on performance:  Pay them for their skill levels as educator, not base upon duration of their  time as educators.  Also, equally important is not give across the board raises that reward mediocre instructors.   In the past, the state of Texas used to mandate that school districts give a terminated employee 45 days notices ahead of  dismissal; they now must give them 10. However,  employees still have the right to appeal their termination and this process takes time and financial resources from the state.

This report by the TPPF makes it more crucial  for Latino parents to  pay heed on how the money is spent in school districts, especially  in South Texas, Dallas, and Houston where Latino K-12 students are about 85% of enrolled  children.  These school districts receive a similar amount of money per student,  and are districts where graduation attainment is low and  college-bound young Latinos have the lowest enrollments in the state, and a higher college drop out in the state.

According to the Texas Controller of Public Accounts,  South Texas shows an enormous potential for producing a large educated work force, with a large number of school-aged children and school districts. The South Texas region is home to 11.2 percent of Texas’ 4.7 million public elementary and secondary students.  Additionally, it has 102 public and nine charter school districts with 844 campuses.  The region’s public school student population reflects an increasing Hispanic population share that is now nearly twice as large as the state average, at 91 percent versus 47.2 percent.

 Furthermore, the average South Texas teacher salary in 2007-08 was $45,742, close to the statewide average of $46,178.  Webb ISD had the highest average salary at $57,991. (Note that a district’s average salary is strongly affected by the length of teachers’ tenure as well as wage levels; in other words, District A may have a higher average salary than District B because it has a higher percentage of experienced teachers, even though its wage levels for various levels of experience may be lower than District B’s.)

So high salaries based on “longevity” (tenure) , not quality of teaching skills, in South Texas  is pushing  up the salary of teachers  who, under Texas Salary Schedule law, it reward longevity” not performance.  “In essence, the longer a teachers stays in the profession in Texas,  the more they are going to be paid each year.” As a result, in  average teacher salaries in the South Texas region rose by 16.3% from 2002-03 to 2007-08, compared with a statewide average increase of 15.5%. Charter School Gateway Academy in Webb County had the highest percentage increase over this period, at 50.7%.

The region’s teacher salaries accounted for 29% of its total district expenditures from all funds in 2007-08, including capital expenditures and debt service, slightly lower than the statewide average of 30.1 percent. Therefore,  If we add the salary of administrative staff, which is equal to the number of teachers  according to the report by the TPPF, to 30% already spent on teacher salaries, it adds to more than 40% of the of education funds going to teachers and staffers–unions.

And although, in 2006-07, the region had a higher average number of students per teacher, at 15.2 versus a statewide average of 14.7 The highest expenditure share within the region was 42.3 percent for Ricardo ISD. In all, 51 of the region’s 111 districts devoted a higher-than-average percentage of expenditures to teacher salaries.

Unless, parents start paying attention to how money is spent in their districts, money alone will not solve any drop outs rates since more than 40% of school moneys is being consumed by unions, schools staffers and teachers’ tenure.  Annual “scheduled” salaries  increases without improvement  in education, hurt not only the state, but also students who are not being prepared for tough course in community colleges or universities.

    Four-Year Graduation Rates – 2009 Of 2005 Cohorts in Texas.

School Grad Rate
The University of Texas at Austin 53.0%
Texas A&M University 50.7%
The University of Texas at Dallas 42.0%
Texas Tech University 40.4%
Texas State University-San Marcos 30.1%
Sam Houston State University 29.7%
Texas A&M University at Galveston 26.9%
Stephen F. Austin State University 25.6%
The University of Texas at Tyler 24.8%
University of North Texas 24.3%
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi 23.5%
West Texas A&M University 23.2%
Angelo State University 22.4%
Texas A&M International University 21.3%
Texas Woman’s University 20.7%
Tarleton State University 20.6%
Texas A&M University-Commerce 20.6%
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 19.5%
The University of Texas at Arlington 19.1%
The University of Texas-Pan American 18.3%
University of Houston 17.0%
Texas A&M University-Kingsville 15.5%
Midwestern State University 14.3%
Prairie View A&M University 11.5%
Sul Ross State University 11.2%
Lamar University 10.6%
The University of Texas at San Antonio 10.3%
The University of Texas at El Paso 10.0%
Texas Southern University 3.0%

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