“I am directing the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to immediately create a task force to help school districts address the ongoing staffing shortages they face. 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,” Abbott wrote to Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath.
“This task force should work diligently to ensure that best practices and resources for recruitment and retention are provided to districts to ensure the learning environment of Texas students is not interrupted by the absence of a qualified teacher.”
The task force’s duties would include balancing an aggressive recruitment effort with ensuring teacher quality, Abbott elaborates. Composed of “stakeholders and experts,” it would recommend policy changes for TEA.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began interrupting regular school practices in the spring of 2020, Texas faced a shortage of teachers in certain subjects, such as special education and mathematics.
However, despite fears that the difficulties of the pandemic would drive teachers out of the classroom en masse, the Texas public education system ended the 2020-2021 school year with more teachers — and administrators — than ever before.
In fact, attrition for the school year was remarkably low. According to official attrition data, the share of teachers that left the workforce was the lowest it has been in 10 years.
Teachers continue to make up a minority of public school staff across Texas. The number of non-teaching staff eclipsed the number of teaching staff in 2016. The gap between the two groups widened in the years that followed. In other words, Texas public schools employ more non-teachers than teachers.
Concurrent with this trend, the number of public school administrators in Texas has steadily risen over the past decade.
Since the amount of money that school districts get from the state is yoked to how many students they teach, a drop in enrollment would normally result in a drop in funding. However, Abbott and Morath maintained a hold harmless policy throughout the 2020-2021 year, keeping schools at the same funding levels despite the enrollment decline.
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