Educators rally in Austin for convention, change

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by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 7:31 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 24 at 8:29 AM

AUSTIN -- Hundreds of teachers are rallying at the State Capitol. The group, made up of teachers, librarians, counselors and other classroom officials, is pushing lawmakers to focus on boosting education priorities this session.

"That will be, I think, the biggest area where we really try to define ourselves as a state," said State Rep. Mark Strama (D) of Austin. "Are we going to invest in our future? Are we going to invest in our children?"

The group will rally Thursday morning, marking the start of a three-day annual convention of the Texas Classroom Teacher's Association. There's already some support for their efforts. A number of budget bills introduced last week fund enrollment growth at Texas schools, but it's not enough to reverse deep budget cuts imposed in the last legislative session.

The convention and rally come a day after the state's education commissioner met with lawmakers. The Senate Finance Committee is working on a series of hearings to examine proposed budgets for public schools and universities.

Commissioner Michael Williams told committee members that public schools are making the most of the money available, but he didn't press the legislature to restore funding. Lawmakers have already promised at least some relief this time for education.

"We funded growth in our public schools," explained State Rep. Jim Pitt (R) of Waxahachie. "I don't think we did [that] last session, at least in the introduced bill."

Over the next few days, Texas educators in town for the convention will meet with several lawmakers who are helping push education legislation through the session.

They'll also attend education sessions and recognize those who have made a positive impact in Texas public education, including State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio and Pastor Mark Lang of The Lubbock Dream Center.

Martinez-Fischer led the Democratic opposition to controversial bills last session which educators said harmed public schools and teacher rights and benefits.

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