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Proposed Education Bill Causing Controversy Among Teachers

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

A controversial education bill is making its way through the Texas House this week. State legislators said it will save districts money during this budget shortfall but teacher unions aren't too happy about it.

House Bill 400 is a proposed bill that was drafted by a group of Republican authors and co-authors, and like so many other bills in legislation right now, the goal is to find a way out of this budget crunch.

NewsWest 9 spoke with one teacher group who said the bill actually does more harm than good.

"These are elements that are anti-teacher," Chuck Isner said.

Change could be coming to the classroom if state legislators have their way, but it's not the kind of change teachers want to see.

House Education Chair and author HB 400, Rob Eissler, said it's a temporary fix that'll save teacher jobs. It also allows school districts to be more flexible during this budget crisis.

But Isner, Regional President of the Texas State Teachers Association, strongly disagrees with many provisions in that bill. One of those would be increasing the class size limit from 22 to 25 for Kindergarten through fourth grade.

"When you have increased class size, the teachers have less time to devote to those kids who have the learning disabilities and the need for extra attention," Isner said. "When a child falls behind in the first four or five years of his education, they almost never catch up."

Isner said this could cut jobs instead of saving them.

The bill also aims to do away with the state mandated minimum salary schedule, but Isner said it just adds insult to injury.

"They're attacking educators as it is saying we're not doing a good enough job, they're going to actually pay less," he said.

Which he also said would drive more teachers away from the profession.

"They're not going to be wanting to compete for jobs that do not pay a reasonable living wage," he said.

HB 400 would allow districts to also get rid of seniority as a factor in determining who gets to keep their job.

"If that teacher is still wanting to teach and has all that experience, we should not deprive our children of that tremendous asset," Isner said.

He said these provisions are no temporary fixes and Isner hopes state lawmakers realize that before it's too late.

"I don't think we want to educate on the cheap at the expense of our children," Isner said. "Bottom line, it is about the child. And if it's not, then what kind of society are we?"

This bill already went through one day of debate in the House this past Thursday. They're scheduled to pick up the topic again on Tuesday.