Texas has a teacher shortage, but that doesn’t stop the state from piling new requirements on teachers.

Brian Lopez of The Texas Tribune reports:

It was one thing to ask Texas teachers — during an ongoing teacher’s shortage — to make extra room in their busy home routines for online classroom teaching for months, then to monitor the latest in vaccine and mask mandates while waiting and adjusting yet again for a return to the classroom.

But now, as teachers attempt to restore all the learning lost by their students during the pandemic, the Texas Legislature has insisted those who teach grades K-3 need to jump another hurdle: they need to complete a 60-to-120 hour course on reading, known as Reading Academies, if they want to keep their jobs in 2023.

And they must do it on their own time, unpaid.

For many like 38-year-old Christina Guerra, a special education teacher in the Rio Grande Valley, the course requirement is the final straw and it is sending teachers like her and others out the door.

“I don’t want to do it,” she said. “I refuse to, and if they fire me, they fire me.”

Course adds to teacher workload

In 2019, the Legislature wanted to improve student reading scores and came up with a requirement that teachers complete this reading skills course. Every teacher working in early elementary grades — kindergarten through third — along with principals, had until the end of the 2022-23 school year to complete it.

Governor Greg Abbott is not satisfied with the performance of Texas students on NAEP. But Texas has a growing crisis of teacher shortages.

But the pressures of the pandemic have forced many teachers to reconsider whether to remain in the profession. From 2010 to 2019, the number of teachers certified in Texas fell by about 20%, according to a University of Houston report.

After recent reports of more teacher departures, Gov. Greg Abbott formed a task force to address teacher shortages.

But teachers and public education advocates alike believe the state should hold itself accountable for the teacher departures, especially when adding requirements that add to teacher workload.

“I just feel like a lemon just squeezing, squeezing, squeezing,” said Guerra, a special education teacher in La Joya Independent School District. “But there’s no more, there’s nothing that you squeeze out anymore. There’s no more juice.”

Guerra plans to leave the profession at the end of the school year.

One way to increase the teacher shortage is to crack down on teachers, demanding more while paying less.