RESPECT US Campaign. Photo: Adobe Stock Images Credit: Sosiukin

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

This is the theme for Fort Bend educators, community leaders and school personnel who demand more for teachers and frontline workers in the public education school system through the RESPECT US campaign.

“This is a statewide [campaign] from Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to increase teacher’s pay, staff pay, and to talk about issues related to the classroom,” said Glenda Macal, president of Fort Bend AFT.

“Teachers are leaving the district and leaving education all together because of low salaries, compensation and benefits, [an exorbitant] workload in the classroom especially in Texas, absenteeism from both teachers and students which disrupts instruction, and the rigorous expectations from the state and its toll on teachers.”

Macal said the RESPECT US campaign is an acronym that stands for seven key issues impacting public school educators and staff.

RAISES: “We need reasonable salaries to keep up with inflation”

EXPECTATIONS: “Setting reasonable expectations when it comes to teacher performances in the classroom. Teachers should not be expected to perform miracles when students are returning to school two and three grade levels behind. Then, they are being penalized for those gaps. They are being asked without compensation to fill those gaps.”

SAFTY and SECURITY: “After the Uvalde mass shootings, it’s been overwhelming emotionally. When you are in the middle of doing drills, you understand what it feels like. This is where we address gun safety laws. We understand the Second Amendment and… everyone is entitled to have arms as long as they are responsible and not meaning to harm anyone. I think teachers want to see reasonable laws. The last thing they want is to be held accountable for operating firearms in the classroom in order to protect students.”

PLANNING TIME: “Teachers’ planning time is continuously being hijacked which takes away from their ability to perform their jobs. It takes away from their family time because they are performing duties outside of their contracted time. Respect their time, their paycheck, safety and professionalism.”

ELIMINATING DUTIES: “In most cases, principals require teachers to sponsor extracurricular activities, do before-school and after-school tutoring. All of that is not compensated which cuts into their planning time. We want them to eliminate unpaid extra duties. Now, if they want to pay them and it’s a voluntary thing that’s fine. I don’t want to imply that teachers don’t want to do this extra stuff. The issue comes when thy are required to do this.”

CLASS SIZE: “We need to make sure that the student ratios are low. In order to differentiate instruction, the class sizes need to be reasonable. This needs to be addressed especially in light of the great exodus everywhere.”

TRUST: “Trust teachers with their professionalism. Quit micromanaging them so that they end up teaching to the test. Teachers didn’t get into teaching for that. They got in to make an impact on student’s lives.”

Fort Bend ISD trustees will vote to approve the districts 2022-2023 budget this year. There is a public hearing on June 13 and a vote will take place on Monday, June 20. The budget stands at nearly $1 billion.

“We are calling for everyone to come to the board meeting and speak up teachers and staff members deserve more than 2.3% salary raise,” she said. “HISD is at 11%. It’s hard to compete with that and our district needs to do what’s right.”

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...