I am the product of Texas public schools. The many teachers who poured their hearts and knowledge into me caused me to be the successful attorney that I am today.
Our Texas public schools are really hurting. The National Education Association reports that our public schools are underfunded by $3,300.00 per student and our public school teacher salaries are $7,500.00 lower per teacher annually than the national average. According to a survey conducted by the Charles Butt Foundation, 77% of teachers have seriously considered leaving the profession and 72% of them have taken concrete steps to leave the teaching profession, including preparing resumes, conducting job searches, and actually interviewing for new positions.
Retired teachers are hurting financially. Many retired teachers in Texas do not receive social security and their Texas teacher retirement is their sole source of income. Although the Teacher Retirement System in Texas is actuarially sound, our retired teachers have not received a cost-of-living adjustment since 2004.
Finally, it appears that school vouchers will be on the agenda once again during the next legislative session. If approved by the Texas legislature, vouchers would allow parents to take the property tax dollars that they pay in the form of a voucher and use those dollars to pay for their children’s private school tuition. Allowing vouchers would obviously take huge amounts of money away from our underfunded public schools.
In 2017, a group of Waco business leaders, along with the Waco and Midway school district superintendents, traveled to Austin and met with our current House Representative, Doc Anderson, to express their opposition to a school voucher proposal which was being considered in that legislative session. Doc Anderson met with these local leaders, listened to their reasoning concerning school vouchers and their strong arguments regarding how vouchers would hurt McLennan County schools. Doc Anderson then completely ignored these community and school leaders and voted in favor of the vouchers. Furious that our State Representative would ignore the voices of the superintendents of McLennan County’s largest school districts, School Board President Pat Atkins penned a letter to the editor that was published in the April 13, 2017, edition of the Waco Tribune-Herald in which he said:
"It is sad and disconcerting when elected officials elevate loyalty to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s agenda above the needs of their local communities. Fortunately for Texas, most representatives - both Democrats and Republicans…, stood last week by a more than 2 to 1 margin, with students, parents, teachers and neighborhood public schools. Unfortunately for Central Texas, Doc Anderson did not."
When an individual is elected to the Texas House of Representatives, the voters entrust that representative to represent them in the Texas House. Representatives serving their communities in the Texas House must research, listen and learn about issues that impact their district and cast their votes in accordance with their community’s needs and values. We do not elect representatives to vote how their “buddies” want them to vote. We elect them to represent us, our children and our community.
Public education, teacher salaries, a cost of living raise for retired teachers, vouchers and so many other issues regarding our Texas public schools will be on the agenda in Austin in 2023. Texas now has a $27 billion surplus in its treasury and we need legislators who will use that money wisely and will support our public schools. I taught at three separate Texas universities for over a decade. I know that teaching is a “calling” and we are losing too many teachers during these trying times. Supporting our Texas public schools is vital... they are training our next generation, our future workforce, our future leaders.
Remember to vote for Erin Shank - a mom, lawyer, former teacher, small business owner, advocate for the disabled and a veteran’s wife - for the Texas House on November 8, 2022, because we need a representative who will listen to the voices of our community and vote accordingly in the Texas House. This is just one more reason why We Deserve Better representation in the Texas House.
Published in the Waco Tribune-Herald on 10/9/2022