Megan Metzger will delay her plan to teach in Texas and head to South America for a job with international volunteer program Cross-Cultural Solutions after she graduates in December.
She’s not alone — Metzger, an applied learning and development senior, knows of several classmates doing the same thing. When she started in the College of Education, all she wanted to be was a teacher, especially in Texas. For the past two semesters, she’s been student teaching at a Del Valle Elementary in pursuit of that goal.
Metzger said a gloomier career outlook, clouded by the economy and the $8 billion in cuts proposed in the 2012-13 biennium that the Texas Legislature passed Sunday, changed her mind.
Each week, when Metzger teaches Del Valle Independent School District second graders in a small portable classroom, she hears the teachers’ concerns about cutbacks.
“It’s harder to stay motivated to do something when [you know] it’s going to be harder to get a job in the future,” Metzger said. “Every team meeting I go to, everyone’s talking about the budget cuts for next year, what we have to order, what we’re going to need, who’s going to be here. It’s very stressful.”
Although Del Valle hasn’t had layoffs, the administration has implemented a hiring freeze, leaving new teachers in a tough spot, she said.
“It’s a huge topic around the [education] school now,” Metzger said. “Everyone’s talking about it, and they’re talking about how they’re not hiring. It can be demotivating.”
Education Council president Emily Cheek, a kinesiology senior, said many education majors are broadening their outlooks and searching for other jobs they had not considered before.
“I’ve actually seen a lot of interest shift from directly going into teaching to considering grad school because of the fear of job cuts and job losses,” Cheek said. “A lot of my friends are going into Teach for America; a lot are being flexible upon graduation.”
Education Council members have worked with Invest in Texas, a student lobbying organization, to advocate for university and public-education funding, Cheek said.
“Obviously, a lot of people are very concerned, not only about how it will affect their jobs in the future but also future generations,” Cheek said.
Courtney Maple, the outgoing Student Government education representative, said the college should now host a town hall meeting or student forum.
“Going forward, we should start a conversation between students, faculty, staff and the community to acknowledge concerns students may have, discuss how these budget cuts affect us and what we can do here at the university level,” Maple said.
In her personal job search, Maple said it’s been difficult to find job openings, but she has taken advantage of the college’s resources, including attending a career fair held Tuesday.
Director of Education Career Services Sharon Evans said this year’s career fair on Tuesday drew 45 fewer recruiting entities, but those in attendance said UT grads have an advantage over students from other programs.
“They are the shiny pennies in the stack, in terms of other people looking for jobs out there,” Evans said. “Recruiters look for our students compared to others because they have over 800 hours in the field. They look like more experienced teachers.”
Although the House passed the budget bill Sunday, the Senate still needs to pass its own version of the bill, so the total cuts to public education could change.
Metzger said lawmakers can still change the outlook of education in Texas by using the Rainy Day Fund, a total of $9.4 billion lawmakers can use during financial emergency. If the current cuts remain, the student-to-teacher ratio in Texas elementary schools would go up to 26-1, and teachers would have fewer school supplies for daily activities.
“It’s hard because there can be things done about [the cuts] with the umbrella funds,” Metzger said. “The hardest part is seeing the effect on the kids.”