Already stressed by budget cuts, teachers now confront fear factor

Teacher unions say Uvalde tragedy is one reason many quit or retire

The president of a teacher’s union in Bexar County says the fear from the Uvalde school shooting and little pay has teachers second-guessing their futures.

SAN ANTONIO – Tom Cummins, president of the Bexar County Federation of Teachers, had just spoken to a teacher who remains fearful in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting.

“She feels more secure in another district. And now it’s a question of whether her current district will let her out of the contract,” Cummins said.

He said the teacher is like many others who were already stressed by recent cutbacks in state funding.

“They were already upset by both the low pay and working conditions. And now, you throw in the fear factor and the concern that school districts have not done their job yet in making campuses secure.”

Cummins said it’s why many teachers are resigning, retiring early or transferring to other campuses or districts where they feel more secure.

He said his information is anecdotal, but they’re out there.

Melina Espiritu-Azocar, chief of staff for the Northside American Federation of Teachers that has 1,700 members, said much the same.

Espiritu-Azocar said soon after the shooting at Robb Elementary, teachers called expressing how much they feared for their lives.

However, in a statement by Wanda Longoria, Northside AFT president, said since then, “We believe NISD has done everything it can to ensure safety.”

Cummins said he agrees the North East and South San school districts, where the union has 5,000 members, have done the same.

However, Cummins said he wants to know more about how new state funding for school safety will be used.

Both Northside ISD and North East ISD each report about 250 teacher vacancies, higher than in previous years.

However, Barry Perez, NISD spokesman said, the 560 teachers who resigned at the end of the school year is similar to what the district has seen in the past.

Aubrey Chancellor, NEISD spokeswoman, said the district typically sees about 400 teachers leave every year.

Even so, Longoria said her union continues to press Gov. Greg Abbott and other decision-makers.

“We call on elected leaders across this country to take a stand and protect our public school educators and the children they teach and serve. The time for change is now,” Longoria said.

The teachers union leaders said that would include banning assault-style weapons.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.