Day: <span>October 16, 2018</span>

Who pays a bigger price for public service? Judges or teachers?


Texas teachers, it is time to cue in some sad music for Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who is complaining that he is underpaid. “Public service…should not be public servitude,” he told a legislative committee, according to an item in Quorum Report.

Pay for Texas Supreme Court members, after all, ranks only 29th among justices on the highest state courts around the country, the same national ranking as average teacher pay in Texas.

Before anyone gets carried away with that comparison, though, please know that Hecht’s annual salary is about $168,000, according to the National Center for State Courts. It may even be a little more because he is chief justice. That is more than three times the average teacher pay in Texas of $53,167.

Hecht is seeking raises for all state judges, but even state district court judges, the main trial judges in Texas, make about $149,000 a year. Servitude, indeed.

Hecht may feel underpaid compared to many lawyers in the private sector, but I doubt that the chief justice or any of his robed colleagues are spending their weekends tutoring students, waiting tables or taking the assortment of other extra jobs that about 40 percent of Texas teachers are taking during this school year to make ends meet for their families.

Sure, judges have very important responsibilities, but they are no less crucial than the work that teachers perform every day. Without the educational services that teachers provide, we, of course, wouldn’t have judges, lawyers, doctors, dentists, scientists, CEOs, etc. etc.—or not very good ones anyway.

Texas legislators need to pay teachers more and provide more classroom resources for their students before they start raising judges’ pay. One reason the legislative majority continues to under-pay teachers and under-fund public education is because the Texas Supreme Court, under Hecht, refused to strike down our lousy school finance system a couple of years ago and force the Legislature to improve it.

The justices admitted the funding system was awful, but they let the Legislature off the hook, and teachers and their students are still paying the consequences.

Still want to play some sad music for Chief Justice Hecht? I didn’t think so.