AUSTIN — Attracting and retaining quality teachers is among the top challenges faced by school districts across Texas.
In recognition of that challenge, the Texas Education Agency, at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott has launched an educator staffing task force, the agency announced Thursday. The Teacher Vacancy Task Force will work to address staffing challenges facing Texas public schools.
“Teachers are the single most important school-based factor affecting student outcomes,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath stated. “The Teacher Vacancy Task Force will further ensure our ability to provide the best guidance, support, and resources to help schools find and retain the teachers they need for all their students.”
The Greenville ISD employs 410 teachers to educate its enrollment of 5,312 students, according to the district.
Specifically, the task force will work to understand challenges districts face related to teacher vacancies; share best practices; develop recommendations for policy changes; and provide feedback on TEA initiatives designed to help impact vacancies.
Of the 28 task force members, two are current teachers.
The TEA said the task force will rely heavily on the presence and input of teachers, and it plans to have a designated teacher panel in future task force meetings.
The task force is scheduled to meet every other month for one year. Morath and agency leadership will regularly facilitate discussions with task force members while including data gathered from experts through the state, including direct feedback from teachers, it said.
The TEA launched the initiative after Abbott sent a letter Monday to Morath directing him to start the task force.
“Teachers play a critical role in the development and long-term success of our students,” Abbott said in the letter. “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.”
Low wages have been a continued issue for Texas teachers.
The state Legislature looked to address pay by including raises in its 2019 House Bill 3 — which included $6.5 billion to improve public education and pay teachers, as well as $5.1 billion to lower school district taxes.
In 2021, a new statewide incentive program for educators in high-poverty schools meant some teachers could see pay up to $100,000. The program emphasizes year-over-year growth, more so than standardized test scores, when awarding money, according to program details.
But along with pay struggles, the pandemic was hard on educators. In addition to concerns of contracting COVID-19, some teachers said the pandemic has caused them more stress and quicker burnout leading them to change careers.
During the pandemic, one of the chief drivers of stress among Greenville teachers was concerned about becoming infected at school with the virus and bringing it home to their families, Supt. Sharon Boothe recently told the Herald-Banner.
TEA said the rapidly increasing population of the state has also caused vacancy issues.
“TEA is launching the Teacher Vacancy Task Force to ensure that Texas schools are equipped with a comprehensive set of strategies to address these challenges,” the agency said.
Below are the task force members:
• Rosie Vega-Barrio — Superintendent, Bolt ISD
• Norma Castillo — Executive Director of Talent, Austin ISD
• Brandon Chandler—Chief Human Resources Officer, Gregory-Portland ISD
• Richard Cooper—Superintendent, Corrigan-Camden ISD
• Brandon Enos—Superintendent, Cushing ISD
• Narciso Garcia—Superintendent, Vanguard Academy
• Bernadette Gerace — Executive Director of Human Resources, Prosper ISD
• LaTonya Goffney—Superintendent, Aldine ISD
• Roland Hernandez—Superintendent, Corpus Christi ISD
• Jason Hewitt—Superintendent, Shepherd ISD
• Jay Killgo—Superintendent, Vidor ISD
• Andrew Kim—Superintendent, Comal ISD
• Dave Lewis—Superintendent, Rochelle ISD
• Judd Marshall—Superintendent, Mount Pleasant ISD
• Casey Morgan—Executive Director of Human Resources, ResponsiveEd
• Ashley Osborne — Executive Director Talent Development, Ector County ISD
• Chane Rascoe—Superintendent, Lampasas ISD
• Melina Recio—teacher, McAllen ISD
• Greg Rodriguez—Superintendent, Edcouch Elsa ISD
• Rick Rodriguez—Chief Operations Officer, Lubbock ISD
• Jean Steepey—teacher, Highland Park ISD
• Chris Tatus—Chief Human Resources Officer, Amarillo ISD
• Sherry Taylor—Executive Director of Human Resources, Aledo ISD
• Justin Terry—Superintendent, Forney ISD
• Roland Toscano—Superintendent, East Central ISD
• Leah Tunnell — Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services, Burkburnett ISD
• Diana Barrera Ugarte—Superintendent, Kenedy ISD
• Christie Volmer—Chief Human Resources Officer, Hereford ISD