With the dual challenge of property tax relief and school finance reform being front and center on the 86th Legislature’s priority list, the question of pay for Texas’ teachers has once again surfaced.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced earlier this year that he wants to implement a $5,000 per-teacher pay raise. Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) ensured the language in the Senate’s school finance plan would do just that. However, HB 3, the House’s school finance bill, would implement a $1,850 per teacher and staff pay raise.
Texas teachers like aspects of both the House and Senate plans. Lonnie Hollingsworth, general counsel for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) said in a statement to The Texan, “We support the Senate pay raise proposal of $5,000, [but] it should also include counselors and other educators on the minimum salary schedule.”
Based on 2016-2017 data provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Patrick’s $5,000 per teacher raise would add almost $3.6 billion to Texas’ two-year education budget — and that’s without the additional staff that is included in Taylor’s bill.
However, some teachers want to see more financial benefits included along with a wage raise, like increased healthcare subsidies wherein the minimum taxpayer-funded contribution for teachers’ monthly insurance premiums is increased.
Vance Ginn, Director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, characterized HB 3 as a massive spending bill in a March 13 statement on Twitter. Ginn said that while the bill contained some good policies, it would nevertheless bust through the numbers outlined by the Conservative Texas Budget Coalition.
And some conservative groups, such as Empower Texans, consider Patrick’s proposal to be part of an attempt to gain back support of Texas’ teachers — a group whom Patrick sparred with last session over his promotion of school choice legislation — but Patrick’s office denied as much. Patrick spokeswoman, Sherry Sylvester, stated in February, “He has been working on education issues for over a decade — it is absurd to suggest that his advocacy on teacher pay began in November.”
With the House and Senate wage raise plans differing significantly, some sort of reconciliation would have to be made for any wage raise to be implemented. The entire prospect of the pay raise, however, is tied to the larger debate over property taxes and school financing, complicated by the upward spending trajectory of the budget.
Texas’ overall education spending has increased $14.8 billion since the 84th Legislature convened in 2013. The TEA lists Texas as having 5,399,682 students during the 2017-2018 school year, with per-pupil spending coming out to $14,153.72 during that calendar year.
In that same time frame, instruction (teaching) spending increased by just over 16 percent. Spending on all staff (non-faculty) — consisting of guidance counseling, general administration, and school leadership — increased at a 21 percent rate.
In terms of wages, total teacher pay since 2013 has increased 16.7 percent while the administrator total pay increased 26.2 percent. Similarly, all staff (non-teacher) pay increased just under 26 percent. The percent increase for teacher hires and average teacher salaries are just over seven percent and just under nine percent respectively.
With the percent increase in average wages for all faculty lagging behind that of non-faculty staff by almost 3.5 percent, teachers are adamant about their desire for a long-sought-after pay raise — and Patrick seems determined to give it to them.
Hollingsworth added that the TCTA is “hopeful that there is a way to blend the two (House and Senate) plans,” and that they are “thankful to both the House and Senate for making education a priority this session.”
The Texas Legislature appropriated almost $108 billion for 2019, of which K-12 education spending amounts to 27 percent of the overall budget.
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.