TEA announces its new Teacher Vacancy Task Force
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Date Posted: 3/10/2022 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell
Late last week Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to set up a task force to study teacher shortages in public schools. In his March 7 letter to Commissioner of Education Mike Morath, Abbott wrote: “This task force should investigate the challenges teacher vacancies are causing for school districts, explore best practices for addressing this shortage, and research the possibility for flexibility of certification, placement, and hiring. This group of stakeholders and experts should also develop recommendations for regulatory and other policy changes at TEA and provide an update on initiatives at TEA that could help impact these vacancies.”
TEA revealed the details Thursday on the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, along with a webpage dedicated to the effort. Most of the task force members appointed by Morath are superintendents or human resources officers in school districts or charter schools. Only two teachers will serve on the 28-member task force.
According to TEA’s website: “The Teacher Vacancy 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.”
Notwithstanding TEA’s description, ATPE is frustrated by the lack of teacher representation on the task force. “We are extremely disappointed at the lack of representation of classroom teachers and campus-level educators on this committee,” said ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes. He added, “ATPE is working on a plan to collect the voices of our members on this topic; stay tuned."
In accordance with Abbott’s directive, the Teacher Vacancy Task Force intends to develop a list of best practices for addressing teacher shortages that will include “exploring opportunities for certification, placement, and hiring flexibilities.” ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Mitchell said the focus is misguided.
“Texas already has some of the most flexible certification and assignment regulations in the country—the problem is not regulatory barriers,” said Mitchell. “To be meaningful, this task force should look at the real issues driving great teachers out of the classroom.”
ATPE has pointed to issues such as teacher pay, the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, working conditions, and a divisive climate—heightened by recent campaign rhetoric that tries to pit educators against parents and other members of the community—as factors that negatively affect teacher recruitment and retention. The association plans to urge TEA to give teachers a greater voice on the task force and ensure these and other critical issues are not overlooked.
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