Month: <span>July 2023</span>

Educator pay raises require more than promises

Guess who still is promising teachers a pay raise?

It is the same state official who promised teachers a raise at the beginning of the regular legislative session in January and then a few months later killed any chance of one as the session was coming to an end. That, of course, would be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, whose top priorities have been and still are tax cuts, private school vouchers and stoking the culture war, not educator pay.

Early on in this year of a record, $33 billion budget surplus, Patrick’s idea of a teacher pay “raise” wasn’t even a raise, but a stingy one-time bonus of $2,000 for most teachers, those who teach most Texas students in the larger districts. Teachers in districts with fewer than 20,000 students, including most charter schools, would have received a one-time bonus of $6,000.

The House ignored the Senate bill and substituted its version of a pay raise, which wasn’t much better, in a school finance bill, which Patrick killed at the end of the session by holding it hostage to vouchers, which the House refused to pass. That ploy killed not only a minimal teacher raise but also an increase in the basic funding allotment for school districts that could have been used to increase pay for school support staff as well.

Now, Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan have resolved their differences over property tax relief by agreeing on an $18 billion package of tax cuts that, if approved by the Legislature in the second special session, will consume more than half of the surplus but add not a penny to public school funding or educator pay.

Yet, right after the tax cut deal had been announced, Patrick was on a WFAA-TV podcast, The Dallas Morning News reported, trying to reassure teachers that he hadn’t forgotten them.

“The House decided they wanted just to keep that (teacher pay) separate from the property tax bill, and I respected that,” Patrick was quoted as saying. “We will address that in a later session and, look, we’re going to get teachers a pay raise.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has repeatedly said he will call another special session later this year to try to force lawmakers to enact vouchers. The governor may add teacher pay and other issues to that session’s agenda, but vouchers will be the governor’s and Patrick’s top priority. And any educator who thinks Patrick won’t again hold a pay raise hostage to a voucher bill if he feels that is necessary to get his way had better not start counting that pay raise yet.

Patrick can make all the promises he wants, but the best chance teachers have of getting a meaningful pay raise from the Legislature this year is to band together with TSTA and demand one – loudly and repeatedly. They also need to demand funding for pay increases for bus drivers, teachers’ aides and other school support staff.

Clay Robison