Students in Texas are standing at an educational crossroad that is unlike many others in our state’s history. On one hand, educational opportunities are greater than ever with the rise of technology, school choice and funding from the 2019 legislative session.
On the other hand, there are looming problems that show no sign of slowing down.
Classroom sizes continue to swell in Texas, making it difficult for students to receive personal attention. Bullying continues to be a concern with the rise in cyberbullying.
Despite increases in state funding, financial challenges for less affluent districts are still prevalent in many regions throughout the state.
While progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to be done to solve a few of the key challenges facing students in Texas today.
Class Size Issues
It’s no mystery that the larger a classroom size, the less personal attention each student may receive from their teacher. In Texas, it is mandated that each district maintain an average ratio of 20 students to one teacher.
However, this number is often exceeded in many districts with high growth populations.
Texas adds more people to its population than any other state. This has led to classrooms in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin to exceed to the student-to-teacher ratio.
The result of this classroom overcrowding has led many teachers to leave the industry.
According to the Houston Chronicle, “Nearly one in three public school teachers in Texas call it quits before reaching their sixth school year…and education advocates are split on whether billions of state dollars recently approved for raises will persuade teachers to stay longer.”
Actions are being taken to help improve overcrowding in the classroom.
For example, online education is helping to remove students from noisy, populated classrooms and provide them with greater control over their personal education.
Hopefully, the recent $11.6 billion decision made in May will be used to help increase teacher pay and lead to improved retention through an increase in teacher pay.
Bullying in Texas Public Schools
Bullying is an unfortunate challenge that students have had to face throughout decades in public school. While lawmakers have passed legislation and increased awareness to combat bullying, students are still as susceptible as ever.
In fact, technology has caused an increase in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is difficult to spot, so it’s vitally important for parents and caretakers to stay in close communication with their students. Here are some helpful signs to spot cyberbullying.
“There’s a rise in cyberbullying nationwide, with three times as many girls reporting being harassed online or by text message than boys,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics .
Thankfully, parents have several options to help their children in the event they are being bullied. Texas allows parents to transfer their students to new classrooms or campuses or enroll them in online education.
Transportation & After School Care Costs
“ Poverty affects students’ learning opportunities in many ways but primarily through after school care and transportation issues.
Families experiencing poverty often have greater difficulties getting after school care, as many parents work long hours or multiple jobs to support their families.
In addition, certain after school programs can be costly. This barrier prevents an opportunity for those unable to afford these helpful programs.
According to The Motley Fool, “The average cost of an after school babysitter is $214 per week. The average family that uses an after school sitter, therefore, spends roughly $7,700 per year, assuming a 36-week school year.”
Transportation costs can also hinder students’ ability to even regularly attend school. Those in rural areas may struggle with transportation costs as students may live too far away from school to walk or receive bus transportation.
For example, students may have to spend several hours a week commuting back and forth between home and school. This is valuable time that could be spent sleeping, studying or participating in recreational activities proven to be vital for childhood development.
Varying Resources by District
School districts get money from two main sources: their local property taxes and the state. This can create a clear divide in funding between districts with high property values and those without.
To help offset this, Texas passed the controversial “Robin Hood” bill in 1993. This bill mandates funds from more affluent districts to be distributed to districts that can’t raise as much money.
However, the distribution of this wealth has never achieved the desired goal of quality education throughout the state. In fact, many lawmakers are looking to remove it entirely and move to a system that doesn’t rely as heavily on property taxes to fund education.
Regardless of the method of funding, the fact remains today that the quality of education available for students in Texas depends highly on the zip code in which the students live.
To provide alternatives for parents and students, Texas has seen an increase in both public online education and charter schools. However, much work is left to be done to help increase Texas’ educational standards across the board.
Despite these challenges, educational opportunities for Texans are increasing thanks to a push from students, parents, educators and lawmakers. The impact of passing House Bill 3 in the 2019 legislative session is still up for debate, but it is a sign that Texas has focused on making positive strides for education.
Teachers are continuing to fight for additional resources in the classroom to meet the needs of their students. Improvements in technology, teacher compensation and awareness of bullying are a few highlights in the long road ahead.