Texas Education Agency expands teacher vacancy task force membership to include more teachers

According to the TEA, much of the state’s staffing challenges are the result of population growth, jobs requiring special skills, and COVID-19 spikes.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced Tuesday that it is expanding its teacher vacancy task force to ensure equal representation of teachers and administrators in the school system.

The TEA announced the formation of the task force earlier this month. Its goal is to solve staffing problems faced by public schools in the state.

According to the TEA, much of the state’s staffing challenges are the result of population growth, jobs requiring special skills, and COVID-19 spikes. Additionally, the $18 billion in relief funds disbursed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on schools over the past two years has created new roles to fill.

Following its first meeting, the task force recommended expanding membership to more teachers across the state.

This is a problem that school districts have faced for years.

“If you’ve been in education as long as I have, you’ve seen this coming,” said Norma Castillo, executive director of talent at Austin ISD.

Castillo is now part of the Texas Education Agency’s task force to better understand the staffing challenges facing public schools.

“These range from everything from increased state demands to compensation issues to lack of planning time,” Castillo said.

Austin ISD data, according to Castillo, shows that teachers leave after their first or second year. She said they really needed to target the root causes of why they were leaving.

“I would really like to change the narrative of teachers. I hope the state community sees teachers as they are, as professionals, as providing a very difficult service. And I hope that this group of work will bring to illuminate the complexities of what it is to be a teacher so that we can support teachers,” Castillo said.

Ken Zarifis, head of Education Austin, a union for AISD employees, said he hopes the task force will do more than just try to fill positions.

“Filling a shortage we fear will be done by undermining the profession rather than doing what is really needed to increase the workforce,” Zarifis said.

He said the workforce is exhausted.

“It’s important that we fund public education first and foremost, but secondly, it’s important that we treat people within public education with the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said. said Zarifis.

Josue Torres de Forney, a fourth- and fifth-grade math teacher at ISD Dallas, will chair the task force. In addition, the task force is organized into several working groups to address the various challenges identified so far, the TEA said.

“It is imperative that we include the ideas and recommendations of current teachers as the task force strives to identify strong recommendations that can address the staffing shortages facing school systems across Texas,” said said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “This expansion strengthens the task force and includes more perspectives as we work to find far-reaching solutions to these challenges.”

Members will meet every two months for a year to discuss how to retain teaching staff in Texas schools. Prior to Tuesday’s update, two teachers were among dozens of task force members.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this task force focused on ensuring that we have great teachers in every classroom,” added task force chair Torres. “The reason I got into education is because I believe a student’s zip code shouldn’t determine their fate, and this task force has the ability to recommend needed changes and innovative solutions needed. to ensure that all Texas students have access to the high-quality educators they deserve.

For more information on the appointees and plans of the Teacher Vacation Task Force, click here.

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