AUSTIN, Texas – Teachers in Central Texas drove around the State Capitol in Austin Monday in a car caravan protest t​o advocate for state leaders to cancel STAAR testing and increase public education funding. 

Public school funding from the state is largely based on enrollment and attendance, which has dramatically fallen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Texas Education Agency has extended the "hold harmless" provision through the end of the spring semester, so those drops in enrollment numbers won’t impact school funding for this school year. However, teachers say that’s not enough, especially when there’s still so much uncertainty about what the fall semester will look like, and whether enrollment numbers will go back up by then. 

Now teachers are renewing their call for increased public education funding, specifically for federal stimulus dollars to go to schools. 

One teacher who participated in Monday's event said advocacy work is an important part of the job for him. 

"Everything that we do is political. Because the legislators are political, and we need to teach them this is what education is about," said 71-year-old Roscoe McCormick, a math teacher in the Austin Independent School District. ​

In his 27 years of teaching, McCormick has always done his best to make math fun. His middle school students call him "EMC Squared." 

“My first name ends in an E. My last name is M-C-C," said McCormick. 

Austin math teacher Roscoe McCormick appears in this image from March 15, 2021. (Spectrum News 1/Niki Griswold)
Austin math teacher Roscoe McCormick appears in this image from March 15, 2021. (Spectrum News 1/Niki Griswold)

This past year he’s been doing his best to reach his students, despite less than ideal circumstances. 

“As long as they show up, I need to give them something. I need to figure out what what is going to make you tick, what is going to make you turn your camera on, what is going to make you engage," said McCormick. 

He joined teachers from several Central Texas teacher unions Monday in protest. 

“I want them to do no harm to students by cutting funds," said McCormick. 

They also advocated for eliminating STAAR testing. 

“Our school shouldn't be graded or taken over based on their STAAR performance. It's demoralizing and punitive, it undermines the work that teachers and students do every day in the classroom unrelated to STAAR," said Selena Castello, a teacher in Manor ISD. 

For McCormick, being an activist is nothing new. 

“I decided that when I started teaching that I would always join a union. I learned about the union in college. My major was economics and we talked about A. Philip Randolph and the union movement," said McCormick. 

Before becoming a teacher, McCormick served 22 years in the military. He grew up in a segregated neighborhood in North Carolina, and when he was a teenager he took the initiative to integrate a local grocery store. 

“I asked him, I said, 'Well, I see that you do not have any Black bag boys in the store,' and he said, 'Yeah, so?' I say, 'Well, why don't you have any?' And he couldn't answer that so I said, 'Well, I would like to work in your store,'" said McCormick. 

He says he got the courage to stand up for what he believes in from his role models growing up. 

“I guess it was my teachers and my family and my church. They inspired us to do things that ... unbelievable things, and they said, 'Well, if you want to do this, go for it,'” said McCormick. 

It's a lesson he’s still living by today. ​