Retired E.T. teacher weighs in on state education cuts

Retired teacher Sarah Austin
Retired teacher Sarah Austin

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The special session continues at the state capitol this week.  Still undecided: how four billion in education cuts will be divided up between the state's school districts.  East tTxas educators are watching Austin closely as lawmakers get closer to a decision.

During a 43 year career teaching elementary students a lot can change, but when retired teacher Sarah Austin looks back, she thinks the biggest... And the best change was smaller class size.

"I'm afraid with the way things are going right now that teachers are going to go back to the '59 load - when I started, I had 40," said Sarah Austin, retired teacher.

When Austin started teaching in 1959, her class was almost twice as big as it was when she retired in 2002.

"Our classes were like 22 - that was our load and it was marvelous," said Austin.

Like other current and past educators across the state, she tries to follow how her elected representatives in Austin are handling the 4 billion in cuts to education.

"I'm afraid that some of the really qualified teachers are going to throw their hat in - give up," said Austin.

Austin worries about cuts to what some consider non-essential things like teacher aides and extra-curricular's.  If they're cut it could change the student's experience in the classroom and the school.

Extra help in the classroom only helps students, Austin says.  Because their teachers will have more time to give them what they need most: attention.

"You don't look at a classroom just as a collection.  You need to see each one individually," said Austin.

Freshman State Representative James White is also a former teacher from East Texas. He considers the school finance solution the biggest priority left during the special session.

"We just don't want to do a band aid for two years," said Rep. James White.

That's what he considers any bill that has any type of across the board cuts like the current senate and house versions.

"We need to start a system of equitable funding we can't start with equitable cuts," said White.

White wants educators in his district to know he won't be voting for anything that's ultimately unfair to East Texas students.

School finance is only one part of the bill that helps balance the budget.