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Teacher Vacancy Task Force addresses Texas teacher shortages

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Posted at 9:25 PM, Nov 16, 2022

Update (02/28/2023):

Recommendations to address teacher shortages in Texas are expected to be brought forward to state lawmakers this legislative session.

Gov. Greg Abbott established the Teacher Vacancy Task Force in March 2022 with the goal of identifying challenges related to teacher vacancies. Individuals in the group also collaborated to come up with solutions.

The Teacher Vacancy Task Force had a final meeting in mid-February after brainstorming for almost a year. On Friday, the group submitted 51 pages as part of its final report to give to the Texas Education Agency's Commissioner.

Click here to read the final report.

The Task Force has 52 members representing different regions of Texas. 26 members are school administrators and the other 26 are teachers. Three locals within the Coastal Bend region represented the school system.

Brandon Chandler is a member, who serves as the Chief Human Resources Officer for the Gregory-Portland Independent School District. Corpus Christi Independent School District Superintendent Roland Hernandez and Kaffie Middle School teacher Cindy Hopkins were picked as representatives from CCISD.

Local Insight

KRIS 6 News caught up with Hopkins following the submission of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force's report. Last time we met with her for an interview in November, she had been going through treatments after a cancer diagnosis in December 2021.

Support from her students kept her strong, and in November she had a meeting set up with a doctor. Her hope was to be in remission by Thanksgiving 2022.

When KRIS 6 News met with her on the last day of February, she had good news to share regarding her condition.

"I am feeling very good. Got my hair growing, the kids like the sticky out hair. They wanted a mohawk, so I got to figure that out," she laughed. "The doctor said, I can use the word cancer free. And so I have another doctor's appointment in May and every six months as long as the first three years are clear, I should be good to go."

However, Hopkins never really stopped going. Throughout 2022, she wasn't only battling cancer. She was also fighting for her peers, and making sure teacher voices were heard.

Because Hopkins joined the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, she wanted to make sure key issues were brought to state leader's attention.

She had ideas of expanding 'Grow Your Own' teacher programs, designed to recruit, develop, and retain teachers who are already in the community. She said expanding programs would require more funding.

"Students at the university, if we expand these programs would be able to spend a year in a classroom where they are getting paid. Student-teachers should no longer have to pay for the class, work all day and then have a job to basically live and pay their bills and that kind of stuff. We need to change that. So that was very near and dear to my heart," she said.

She also mentioned teacher compensation. The reports show a current minimum salary schedule. According to the report, Texas teachers could start at a yearly salary of $33,660.

It could take 20 years to reach a salary of $54,540. The Task Force recommends the minimum salary schedule to be raised to reflect the impact of teachers.

"Teachers need higher compensation. We've had raises and stipends but inflation," Hopkins said.

Chandler had a similar perspective.

"I will say, my starting out pay was a major concern. I remember getting my first paycheck because most teachers get paid once a month and it was like $1,500 and I was like how do you survive, when you have student loan payments that are like $500 a month?" he said. "As we're looking at teacher attrition, people leaving education, we need to know why people are leaving. We know it's the experiences people have of not feeling valued. We need to find out how as a state and a system we can address that and make people want to go into education because it is such are rewarding place to be."

Chandler knows the rewards of staying in the field of education. He's been working in the school system for 23 years. Before he was in administration, he was a principal. Early in his career he used his love for music and taught Orchestra for middle and high school students.

"I loved it. The reason I became a teacher is because people believed in me," he said.

The two educators believe the future of education will have a strong workforce, as long as teachers have the support. They encourage people to get involved and reach out to representatives advocating for local teachers.

"If you don't have great teachers, you're not setting up tomorrow's leaders," Chandler said. "And so it's important we have strong teachers in classrooms so they can support all of our students to help them achieve their hopes and dreams."

"Teaching should be on-par with being a doctor or being a lawyer, but we're not, it's kind of like we're second class, but we shouldn't be because we make the doctor's and the lawyers," Hopkins added. "We need the community to back us up and start advocating for teachers. When they do that, they're really advocating for students, for the kids, for the next generation."

To learn more about the Teacher Vacancy Task Force click here.

Click here to for more information on the Texas Legislature.

Original Story:

A Corpus Christi middle school teacher is working with educators and administrators across the state to help address staffing challenges that Texas public schools face.

Doctor Cynthia 'Cindy' Hopkins has been teaching at Kaffie Middle School for 16 years. She became a part of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force (TEA) in May when members were asked to have more educators representing each region in Texas.

In the spring, TEA announced the selection of 24 additional teachers for the group.

The addition of the educators expanded the teacher-chaired Task Force to 52 members, with 26 teachers and 26 school system administrators constituting the membership of a statewide task force charged with identifying solutions to address ongoing school staffing challenges.

Hopkins's experience has led her to observations, shared by many other educators.

"We had a problem before COVID. COVID just exasperated the fact that there's not enough teachers," she said.

The science teacher said the problem can't be narrowed down to one source.

Because Texas' population is growing, more students are filling classrooms and there aren't enough people pursuing education as a career.

Another challenge is teacher retention. According to data from the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), 43,000 teachers in the Lone Star state resigned or retired since the last school year.

AFT also had a survey which shows 66 percent of 3,800 members said they had considered leaving their job in the last year. Low wages, workload stress, and health and safety were the main concerns.

Doctor Hopkins echoed those concerns. However, when asked what kept her around as an educator for almost two decades, she said the answer was simple but hard to say without feeling strong emotions.

"I do it for my kids. I know they will change the world," she responded teary-eyed. "I have seen it — I have students who have graduated from college, and I see what they're doing, awesome amazing things.

Hopkins also said teaching gave her a purpose to push forward. She was diagnosed with a type of breast cancer last year, two days before Christmas.

Since her cancer diagnosis, Hopkins has been going through treatment and hopes to be in remission by Thanksgiving.

"My kids, they gave me strength," she said.

Hopkins said she hopes others will learn of the joys of a career in education.

She believes more programs are needed to inspire youth to become the next generation of educators. She recommends expanding residency programs and high school programs.

During the task force's recent meeting in October, members discussed priorities such as increasing the quality of healthcare for teachers, increasing the base pay rate for all educators, and covering the cost for retired educators and rehires.

To see learn more click here to see notes from the meeting.

The task force has been meeting once a month since it was established.

It will have one final meeting in February. They will present their findings to the Texas Education Agency's Commissioner.

From there, recommendations will be handed to the State Legislature for consideration. The Legislative session begins in January. Hopkins said if a person wants something to change, they need to reach out to their state representatives.