AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) - Thousands of teachers spent their first day of Spring Break at the state capitol.
They made the trip to Austin to meet with their local lawmakers and push them to restore the $5.4 billion in cuts to public education made last session, amid a severe budget shortfall.
"We are working hard to restore that money for our school children," Sen. Wendy Davis (D) Fort Worth said.
"The only time I get nervous is when I'm before teachers," Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, (D) McAllen said.
Educators from across Texas met with their area lawmakers to convey the impact that the cuts imposed in the 82nd legislature have had on their districts.
Teachers from Corpus Christi told Rep. Abel Herrero, (D) Robstown, and Sen. Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa that layoffs have led to large class sizes, some with as many as 36 students.
"Bear with us. You have supporters that are fighting for you tooth and nail everyday," Herrero said.
"As teachers, we tell our students when you take something you know you shouldn't, you put it back. And in 2011, they really should not have taken the funding they did from our schools," said Ray McMurrey of the Corpus Christi chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. "Our kids are hurting and we're telling the legislators here today - let's put the money back."
"In El Paso, funding, restoring funding back to education is essential," said Mary Helen Cholka, an El Paso teacher.
Ask any of the estimated 2,700 members of the American Federation of Teachers who came out for its 2013 lobby day, and they will tell you that, beyond restoring the cuts, they are focused on reforming standardized testing and ensuring teachers have a sound pension system.
Lawmakers in both chambers have filed bills this session addressing many of those concerns.
"It's important for the legislators to hear from the people that are on the front lines every single day, working with our students," said Rene Honea of the AFT in Dallas. "They are the ones here trying to educate the legislators on what looks good on paper doesn't always translate into good practice."
They say that includes vouchers or any proposal that would allocate taxpayer dollars away from the public school system. But others argue that simply putting more money into public education won't solve the problem.
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