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From Texas Standard:

Members of the House and Senate are scrambling to plug a $212 million hole in the teacher retirement system, which provides health benefit for retired educators. Changes made to the TRS-Care system during the regular legislative session could cause some retirees' health care costs to increase tenfold.

Retired Texas teachers are closer to seeing some relief from higher health care deductibles, and current teachers may be seeing more money in the near future, too. But some teacher groups are worried the push to help teachers is more political than substantive.

"I am overloaded and struggling. It's terrifying."

"I feel like I'll be making the last payment from my grave."

"It is an albatross around my neck. Years of paying and I feel like I'm getting nowhere."

"Help!"

Those were some of the comments we received from more than 2,000 respondents to NPR Ed's first Teacher Student Debt survey.

With the start of the special legislation session less than a week away, Morning Edition is looking at issues on the agenda. Today, we answer a listener question about a proposed $1,000 pay increase for teachers: Who is pushing for the increase and where is it coming from?

From Texas Standard:

For years, Texas lawmakers have been trying to stem the bleeding of the state's health care plan for retired teachers. The plan has been at risk of going unfunded for nearly two decades because of demographic and economic changes, including more retirees and rising health care costs. During this year's legislative session, lawmakers took steps to make up for the plan's $1 billion shortfall  .

About exactly a year ago we brought you the story of Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

At the time, he and about 40 other educators were running for office in the state, wanting to make a change because, as Sheehan puts it, lawmakers weren't prioritizing education. Funding for schools in the state has been cut tremendously over the past decade and teachers in Oklahoma are some of the lowest paid in the country.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Schools face a constant challenge — how to get families more engaged in what’s happening in the class. In North Texas, some schools are experimenting with teachers making home visits. In Irving, one teacher’s been doing just that for years.  

Brian Goodman / Shutterstock.com

The Dallas Independent School District is paying its teachers differently this year. The new system bases pay on merit, not years of service – and student evaluations also play a role. Some teachers love the Teacher Excellence Initiative, while others blast it.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

The Dallas school district continues its superintendent search. Michael Hinojosa has been the interim superintendent since June. He stepped in after Mike Miles resigned. Hinojosa talked to reporters Wednesday about how he’s preparing for the upcoming school year.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Summer school’s now in session for science teachers. It’s being run by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and Kosmos Energy. The classes target teachers who want to get their students excited about science.

About 1,000 educators will descend on Dallas this weekend to attend the Extra Yard for Teachers summit.  The event is organized by the College Football Playoff Foundation as a way to boost education in advance of Monday night’s championship game. For this week’s Friday Conversation, Google education evangelist Jaime Casap sat down with KERA’s Stella Chavez to talk about his role in the summit and in classrooms.

Jason Janik

The College Football Championship in Arlington next week will also include a bit of philanthropy. The group started a program called Extra Yard for Teachers, to boost education in the cities where the playoffs are hosted. Two teachers from Dallas will have a big role.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Dallas teachers are nearing a key deadline in the evaluation system that Superintendent Mike Miles introduced this fall. He wants to reward teachers based on outstanding performance, not years served or advanced college degrees. That’s raised hackles among teacher organizations.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Instead of a summer job at the mall, two North Texas high schoolers spent their time off with a telescope. And it was time well spent.

For these astrophysicists-in-training, stargazing over the summer led to five unusual discoveries: new stars.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Today’s the first day of public school in Texas, and for at least one teacher, it’ll be a day of many firsts. Michael Latorre, a veteran teacher who was born in Puerto Rico, got his alternative certification to teach Spanish. And today, he makes his Dallas teaching debut at Pinkston High School.

On Friday, The Texas Tribune published a story about teacher pay and the challenges educators face in Texas. According to the piece, the average Texas teacher makes about $49,000 a year, which is about $8,000 below the national average. During the 2010-2011 school year, teacher pay in the state ranked 30th in the country, and two years later, it dropped to 35th in the nation.

Other issues, the story points out:

Bob Daemmrich/Laura Buckman / The Texas Tribune

Democrats will hit high gear at their convention Friday night with speeches by Wendy Davis, their candidate for governor, and Leticia Van de Putte, their nominee for lieutenant governor.

On Thursday, both candidates talked about their vision for education at the Texas Classroom Teachers Association conference in Fort Worth.  Davis’ Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, also spoke. 

NOAA

Dana Clark is on an Alaskan cruise this summer. But this Dallas teacher isn’t lazing on the deck of a luxury liner; she’s working on a research vessel run by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. KERA caught up with the award-winning science teacher before she left for Kodiak, off Alaska’s southern coast.

Flickr

Most of the headlines about Dallas schools the last few months have been about the controversial home rule effort to remake the system. But on Thursday night, the school board approved a proposal that could have a huge, immediate impact in the classroom. 

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

In Garland, two dozen teachers are still in limbo. Recruited from other countries, they’re on the verge of losing their jobs and being deported when their H1-B visas expire. They're not alone. School systems and teachers across the country – and just down the highway in Dallas – are dealing with similar visa problems.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis continued her assault on Republican opponent Greg Abbott’s pre-kindergarten plan, this time in Dallas.

But as she spoke at the annual conference for the Texas Retired Teachers Association, a new national poll was released, showing the state senator from Fort Worth has made little headway in chiseling down Abbott’s lead.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

More than 600 teachers on H1-B visas were hired to work in the Garland school district during a 10-year period. In that time, the district says the former head of human resources, Victor Leos, pocketed fees and took numerous all-expenses paid recruiting trips to the Philippines.

District officials and a law firm working with the district revealed those findings Tuesday. Some of the teachers who were recruited face deportation when their visas expire in a few months.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Nearly two dozen teachers from other countries in the Garland Independent School District are on the verge of losing their jobs and getting deported. They say they didn’t do anything wrong. Their visas are about to expire and federal officials are investigating.

Teachers have a huge responsibility as they prepare students for the future. Tonight, you’ll hear how they do that in Teaching the Future, the second installment of a two-episode television series focused on education in North Texas.

The number of first-year teachers hired in Texas public schools has dropped significantly, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Texas must change its teacher evaluation system because of a deal it cut with the federal government a few years ago. The state’s education commissioner and others weigh in on what a new system might include.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Students learning Arabic at Central Junior High in Bedford have three teachers – the two in their classroom and another one 5,000 miles away. In Morocco. Once a month, the class calls him up on Skype. The students practice speaking Arabic and learn something about breaking down cultural barriers, too.

 

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles wants to end a long tradition of granting pay hikes based on seniority. Instead, he wants to base them on performance evaluations. This is just one proposed change in teacher evaluations creating ripples in the schools.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

David Marquis has spent nearly 40 years writing and performing three installments of his one-man play ‘I Am A Teacher.’ He draws from that experience in the classroom, diving into education issues that are as relevant today as when he wrote part one in 1976. The three plays will be performed as a trilogy for the first time this weekend at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas.

Victor Palomares / KUHF

NPR aired an interesting story on Monday about how the coal industry in Texas is paying for science teachers to attend a camp where they learn all about mining.

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