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Texas Teachers In Austin To Lobby Lawmakers

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Teachers from across Texas spent the first day of their Spring Break lobbying lawmakers in Austin. There is a group that traveled from Dallas on Monday, boarding a bus and taking a field trip to the State Capitol, to join other teachers from all over the state.

The trip has become a biennial event where teachers voice their concerns to state legislators. Educators this year are worried about the privatization of schools through vouchers, something that is being pushed by the nation's new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Paying for public schools has been an issue in the State Legislature this year. There is now a bill in the House that would pump an extra $1.6 billion into classrooms. The bill's Republican sponsor, Rep. Dan Huberty from Houston, stated that kids cannot wait for much-needed changes to how funding is distributed.

But the Senate has shown little interest in tackling school finance. Instead, it has been focused on offering vouchers to families who want to pull their children from public schools and send them to private or religious schools.

Rena Honea is president of the Alliance/AFT union. She said that vouchers do not work, because they are not big enough and often leave a financial burden for parents. She wants to see lawmakers support public education and restore funding for it to a previous level seen in 2003. Honea explained, "We would have about $300 per student additional that would help us just kind of break even, rather than just struggling all the time."

"If you look at public schools, we are growing, especially in Dallas, in closing the achievement gap," Honea said. "The push to have vouchers takes money away from our public schools."

"It's important that they listen to the people that are on the front lines every day in those classrooms, in those schools working with our children and working with the students that are going to be our future leaders," added Honea.

The group from Dallas -- including teachers, parents, students and community members -- left early on Monday morning for a meeting with lawmakers. They will then hold a rally on the steps of the State Capitol. That is scheduled for noon on Monday with about 2,000 people expected to attend.

"We have to get out and fight for what's right," said teacher Shawana Washington.

Nikki Mitchell is bringing her young daughter along for the bus ride. "Hopefully she'll learn something from it," the eight-year teacher said. "She's only 5, but she's excited."

Among those who went to the rally are Samuell High School ROTC cadet Joshua Robertson and some of his classmates. "I believe that it is important for us to learn about our democracy," he stated, "and the decisions that's going on that's going to affect us later on in life."

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