State House Democrats call for $15,000 raise for every teacher in Texas

Democrats in the Texas House presented a bill Tuesday that would appropriate billions of dollars to public education for $15,000 pay raises for every teacher.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 9:41 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 10:37 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KCBD) - Inside a media conference room in the Texas Capitol, flanked by state lawmakers, education advocates, and school board trustees, Deanna Perkins laid out some of her experiences in her 18 years as an educator at Leander ISD on Tuesday.

“We work well over the 40 hours we are barely paid for,” she said from prepared remarks at the podium, “we attend meetings, plan, and grade after our contract hours. When we are sick, we create sub plans at 3 A.M. We receive parent e-mails after hours. Our Sundays are spent getting ready for the week. We spend our own hard-earned money to make the school environment an experience unforgettable for our students. Our state representatives and leaders ask for teacher time and input on a state level with absolutely no compensation.”

The mother of two was advocating for more teacher pay, saying the profession has remained undervalued for too long and too many are working second jobs to support themselves or their families.

“We are losing amazing, experienced educators because our pay is not getting any better and our job is getting harder,” Perkins said.

Democrats in the Texas House announced a proposal Tuesday that would appropriate billions of dollars to public education for $15,000 pay raises for every teacher and 25% pay raises for school support staff statewide.

“We have an emergency teacher shortage in this state, and it requires emergency action by the Texas Legislature,” Rep. James Talarico (D-Austin), the bill’s author, said.

Talarico, a former language arts teacher, said it would be the largest pay raise for teachers in Texas history utilizing a portion of the $47 billion that remains unappropriated beyond both budget proposals released last week.

With an average salary of around $58,000 — according to the National Center for Educational Statistics —Texas teacher salaries currently rank in the bottom 10 states across the country. The average K-12 support staff salary in Texas is $29,067.

“Hoarding this surplus while educators and children are suffering is immoral,” Talarico said, “and it’s bad business. Any businessperson worth their salt will tell you ‘you don’t stick your money under a mattress, you put your money to work by making smart investments.’ The smartest investment we can make as a state is in the next generation.”

Texas’ school financing system is complicated, but generally speaking, a public school district has two sources of income: state funding and local property tax revenue. The state funding is divided among many different allotments, most based on average daily attendance, and funds different portions of a district’s overall educational programs. That is where Rep. Talarico says the money for this proposal would get “funneled.”

Rep. Talarico said that would help reduce the effect of property tax revenue recapturing, otherwise known as the “Robin Hood” portion of school finance that takes excess revenue from property-rich districts and gives it to districts with smaller tax bases.

Rep. Talarico noted this bill would have to work in conjunction with other changes to school finance formulas in order for the adjusted pay scale to be sustainable in the long term. The House’s budget proposal includes language that would raise the basic allotment per student, which was last increased in 2019, and both chambers have allocated funding for a program that would give teachers raises based on their performance.

2019 legislation gave Texas teachers a pay raise, but a report from the Texas American Federation Teachers Union shows salaries have actually decreased by an average of four percent in the past decade when you account for inflation.

Rep. Talarico, along with other House Democrats and school funding advocates, insisted more legislation was in the pipeline to bolster the state’s investment in schools on a bipartisan basis. They said they are hopeful Republican colleagues will see the added benefit of reducing property tax rates statewide.

“The best way to provide sustainable property tax relief is by investing in public schools,” Rep. Talarico said. “The systematic defunding of schools, the shrinking state support of public education, is the primary driver of property tax increases over the last two decades.

“Anyone who is talking about property tax relief without also talking about increasing the state’s share of public education is not shooting straight,” he concluded.