A road trip to the state capitol may not seem to be the best way spend a spring break, but that’s how second grade teacher Sarah Marsch was spending her Monday. Instead of hitting the beach, Marsch and other educators spent the morning navigating the hallways of the capitol extension.
"The kids deserve an education more than one day out of my Spring Break,” said Marsch.
This trip, organized by the Texas American Federation of Teachers, was to promote public education. The group is passionate about their message but Texas AFT is competing with several hot topics for the attention of state lawmakers. Emotional debates have already been held on legislation to ban sanctuary city policies, as well as on a proposal to regulate access to rest rooms.
Monday morning San Antonio Democrat Diana Arevalo was among the lawmakers to get a visit. The freshman state representative promised public schools would not be overshadowed by other legislative concerns.
"I'm looking forward to talking about all these issues and addressing all of them as they come to the table, whether it’s that bathroom bill education or health care or veterans issues,” said Arevalo ( D ) San Antonio.
Keeping education on the front burner for more than one day is certainly a tough assignment. That’s because there is more than one education issue that state lawmakers are dealing with this session. Texas AFT is against the push for school vouchers and expanding charter schools.
“I’m angry about what’s going on in this capitol, I’m angry because there is too much talk about bathrooms and not enough talk about early childhood education ... there's too much talk about privatization and vouchers and not enough talk about fixing a broken public education system. There is too much time talking about the bad teachers and attacking teachers and their rights instead of coming to us and saying how can I help you to get the job done,” said Louis Malfaro with Texas AFT.
There are also calls to improve retirement benefits, pass a workable funding formula and reduce the emphasis on testing. Brenda Duncan, a music teacher from San Antonio, says she spends most of her time teaching students to pass a standardize test and not music.
"Help us do our job, instead of taking away our money, and trying to take the money away from public schools and give it to vouchers so people can go to private schools, it’s just not right,” said Duncan.
The Texas AFT rally was not as large was a Pro School Choice rally that took place earlier this Session. Union leaders admit changing the legislative tune that’s being played under the dome this session will not be easy. But they promise to keep up the pressure and said they’ll be back to hold another rally later in March.