I received my Happy New Year email from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick the other day. It was mostly a message reminding me of what a great leader he thinks he is and reminding me of his political priorities – a secure border, lean and efficient government, property tax relief, protecting Second Amendment rights, religious liberty, freedom, etc.
It also included this message: “Fixing school finance and giving our teachers the $10,000 raise that I advocated for in the 2017 special session are also top priorities for me when the (new legislative) session begins next week. We must invest in our teachers – next to a parent, they are the most important part of a student’s education.”
Sounds promising…until you remember that Dan Patrick never advocated for a $10,000 teacher pay raise during the 2017 special session. What he did do was call a news conference, display some charts and propose that teacher pay raises and bonuses be squeezed out of the existing, under-funded public education budget. Under his “plan,” if you want to call it that, the extra teacher compensation would have come from lottery proceeds already dedicated to education and by requiring school districts to squeeze 5 percent out of their existing budgets for pay raises.
Patrick didn’t call for a single cent of additional state funding for teacher pay. That isn’t advocacy. That is flim-flam.
Commenting at the time, TSTA President Noel Candelaria called Patrick’s pronouncement “hollow” and a “mythical, pie-in-the-sky promise” because it didn’t include additional state funding.
Gov. Greg Abbott also dangled the idea of a teacher pay raise in 2017, but he didn’t propose a way to pay for one. Instead, Abbott applauded while the Patrick-led Senate killed a House school finance bill that would have provided as much as $1.8 billion in additional state education funding, money that could have gone toward teacher pay raises.
Abbott and Patrick also were the main drivers behind the creation of a new commission to conduct the umpteenth study of school funding. That commission concluded its work just before the holidays with a report that stopped short of recommending a specific amount of increased state education funding. And instead of recommending a much-needed across-the-board pay raise for all teachers, it encouraged districts to create “merit” pay plans – most likely to be based on student test scores — for raising salaries for a small group of teachers
The governor and the Legislature can do better than that, and they must do better than that before more teachers get squeezed out of the profession.