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Education cuts worry future teacher

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Studet-teacher, Victoria Valdez, helps university students at the Center for Leadership and Fraternity & Sorority Life

As a senior in bilingual education with a minor in mathematics, Victoria Valdez scoffs at what she sees as an assault on the teaching profession.  In the past few years, teachers have endured scrutiny about performance, changes to pay, challenges to teaching unions and most recently, steep budget cuts imposed on Texas public schools that may force some schools to fire teachers.

The reductions have some college students majoring in education worried about their job prospects.

“I don’t think I’ll have as much of a problem finding a job as traditional education majors,” said Valdez who attends UH.

According to the National Education Association, Texas has a shortage of special education, math, science and bilingual education teachers even as schools around the state are reducing their staffs.

After starting her undergraduate career in physical therapy, Valdez changed to business and finally settled on bilingual education.

“I neglected my calling because my family has a history of being teachers. I wanted to be something different, but I ended up coming back to what inspired me the most,” said Valdez.

She was first introduced to teaching by her mother, a bilingual education teacher in Lamar Consolidated Independent School District.  As a senior in high school, she joined PALS, a program that allows select students to mentor and teach younger students. It was through PALS that she had her most impactful teaching opportunity, tutoring a student that knew little English and whose teacher had lost patience with him.

“I was able to help him out because I understood what he was going through. I was able to relate to him in a way his teacher couldn’t,” said Valdez.

While Valdez’s language and math specialties may give her a competitive advantage over traditional education majors, there is no guarantee she’ll find a job after graduation.

The employment outlook for teachers is not as bright as it once was. In June, the Texas Legislature cut $4 billion from public schools over two years after a 30 day special session. The cuts call for 6 percent across the board in 2012 and $2 billion targeted cuts in 2013.

The full affects of the cuts are yet to be known.

In anticipation of state budget cuts, for the 2011 – 2012 school year Houston Independent School district plans to spend $96 million less than the previous school year. The bulk of the reductions, $58.4 million, will come from campus-based salaries and programs for teachers, librarians and supplies.

While budget cuts forced some schools to lay off teachers, college campuses are preparing their students for the changing employment landscape by encouraging students to pick up minors or double majors.

“Of course I’m worried about finding a job after graduation. There’s ways around budget cuts if you’re determined. I wouldn’t’ mind working in a low-income school. Those are the kids that need it the most.” Said Valdez

UH and UH-CL did not have an education expert available for comment.

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