Since the Legislature's intention to cut $5.4 billion from public education became a reality, one question has dominated the conversation: just how bad will it be?
Not everyone comes up with the same answer. But the Texas American Federation of Teachers, the state branch of the nationwide teachers association, has released the results of a web survey that reports extensive teacher layoffs, increasing class sizes and deteriorating work environments.
Here's a quick run through their results, which included 3,549 respondents, about 82 percent of whom identified as educators. (And remember, this is a web survey, not a scientific poll.)
· 92 percent said their district had eliminated positions — most reported between 10 to 50.
· 85 percent said the positions eliminated included teachers.
· 79 percent reported cuts to student programs including pre-K, special education, electives, and athletics.
· Tutoring was the program respondents most frequently reported as cut
· 87 percent said that class sizes had increased at both the elementary and secondary level.
The survey also asked respondents about their schools' climate for students, teachers, and staff — and how that compared to the year before. Eighty-one percent said it was "worse" or "much worse," and 72 percent described it as "stressful and taxing."
The survey confirms the impact that the budget is having an impact on classroom instruction, Texas AFT president Linda Bridges said, adding that its results show that Gov. Rick Perry has been "spinning a tale" about balancing the budget without harming public education. She said that her organization planned a follow up survey in the spring, and noted that because of the way school districts have structured their budgets, most of the worst cuts are still to come.
As the new school year progresses, expect many more attempts at quantifying the effects of the budget cuts in public education.