Greg Abbott

Dreaming of the governor’s six-figure teacher salary? Time to wake up.


The political fantasy season continues. Now Gov. Greg Abbott is getting some nice headlines and TV exposure by claiming to be working on a way to give some teachers six-figure salaries. If you are a teacher who believes that, then you probably will believe the kid who claims the dog ate his homework.

Unless you are a high school football coach with a very successful record, your chances as a teacher of getting a six-figure salary under this governor are nil. Your chances of getting even a decent, professional salary in the upper five figures are practically zero.

The only reason Abbott is even talking about educators and money in the same sentence is because, of course, this is an election year. For him, education is an issue with which to deceive teachers into thinking he actually gives more than a tweet about the real needs of educators and their students.

You may remember that Abbott also proposed a teacher “pay raise” before a special legislative session last summer but never came up with the money to pay for it. Speaker Joe Straus and the House came up with some money — $1.8 billion – that many districts could have used to raise teacher pay or reduce employee health insurance premiums. But Abbott and his accomplice, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, slammed the door on the extra funding in an unsuccessful effort to advance a voucher bill.

Now, here is Abbott again, claiming to be thinking about another teacher pay raise – a big one.

“We want to structure a compensation plan that will put the very best educators on a pathway to earning a six-figure salary,” he said, without suggesting a way to pay for it.

There also are other problems with the governor’s pronouncement. Rather than give all 350,000 or so Texas teachers a well-deserved pay raise, Abbott proposes to select a relative handful and force them to jump through hoops to get what they already have earned. The hoops most likely would be STAAR test scores, meaning more valuable classroom time would be wasted on teaching to the test without actually measuring real student achievement.

The governor apparently has been talking to Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who supported a similar plan in Dallas ISD when he was a board member there. Five years later, the plan is a huge failure. Less than 1 percent of Dallas ISD teachers have made the top pay tier, and there has been a huge teacher turnover. Almost half of the district’s teachers have five or fewer years of experience, and Dallas ISD is going to be unable to continue paying the higher salaries at the top if the state doesn’t increase public education funding.

Better education funding for all schools and students should be Abbott’s top educational priority, not meaningless pie-in-the-sky teasers to a handful of teachers. Annual per-student funding in Texas is $2,300 less than the national average, and teacher pay is $7,300 less than the national average. As many as half of the teachers who enter the classroom this fall will have left five years from now, and Abbott is doing nothing to address that problem.

“Being an educator is a calling; however, we want to advance that calling into a profession,” Abbott was quoted as saying.

Someone should tell the governor that being an educator already is a profession. The problem is that Abbott, Patrick and officeholders like them don’t believe that educators should be paid a professional salary. And Abbott’s alleged proposal doesn’t do that.

It is time for educators to elect new leaders, including Lupe Valdez for governor and Mike Collier for lieutenant governor. Vote Education First!




Pay every teacher more, and quit over-testing their students


The House Public Education Committee had a hearing on teacher compensation yesterday and heard from TSTA and other teacher groups. Education Commissioner Mike Morath was there too, officially wringing his hands over low teacher pay and high teacher turnover. (Yes, there is a connection.)

Thirty years ago, Morath told lawmakers, the average Texas teacher had 15 years’ experience. Now, most teachers you are likely to encounter are only in their first or second year in the classroom. And most college graduates are choosing other professions.

The solution, he proposed, was to pay a handful of the “best” teachers more, ignoring the fact that all Texas teachers, except for maybe a few high school football coaches, are underpaid.

On average, Texas teachers are paid $7,300 a year less than the national average, a gap that is growing wider, and you don’t cure that by forcing the so-called “cream of the crop” to jump through more STAAR hoops for a pay raise.

Moreover, almost 40 percent of those Texas teachers who haven’t given up on their professions are taking extra jobs during the school year to make ends meet, as TSTA’s latest moonlighting survey points out.

And it is not just teacher pay that is lagging. The state also under-funds school districts for basic school supplies and other educational needs. Teachers also are shelling out an average of $738 of their own money on school supplies each year, providing what amounts to a $250 million annual subsidy for the elected state officials who are neglecting their duty to adequately fund public education.

Next week, the attention will be diverted from teachers as Morath unveils the first A-F letter grades for school districts, which will be largely based on STAAR test scores and do nothing to improve teacher compensation or give one additional school child a greater opportunity to succeed.

The A-F grades are designed instead to give political cover to the governor, the lieutenant governor and their legislative allies who persist in shortchanging public schools, students and educators. They will use low grades to blame under-funded school districts and teachers – instead of themselves — for “failing” their students. And it will get worse next year when the letter grades are assigned to individual schools.

The real culprits who deserve an accountability kick are the officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who persist in over-testing students and under-funding their schools and their teachers. Remember that on Election Day and Vote Education First!




Patrick shoots down idea to protect schools


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he wants to protect students and educators from gun violence, but his first priority is keeping the firearms industry happy. Gov. Greg Abbott also is a major promoter of firearms, but in the days immediately following the shootings at Santa Fe High School, Abbott at least proposed that the Legislature consider enacting a red flag law to try to keep guns out of the hands of the most dangerous people. Now, he apparently is retreating.

In the realm of “gun control,” a red flag law would be modest but potentially effective in isolated cases. Such a law would make it easier for judges to issue orders removing or blocking access to firearms for people who have been legally determined to be potentially dangerous to themselves or others, such as people with some mental issues or individuals involved in incidents of domestic violence.

Patrick instructed a Senate committee to hold a public hearing on the red flag proposal, but it apparently was only to give gun owners the opportunity to flock to the Capitol to remind senators what a bad idea they thought a red flag law was. Once the show was over, Patrick announced that he intended to kill the legislation next session. (He is assuming he will be reelected in November, and he will be if educators don’t get out in force and vote for Patrick’s opponent, Mike Collier, for lieutenant governor.)

“I have never supported these (red flag) policies, nor has the majority of the Texas Senate,” Patrick said.

Patrick also said Abbott was backing off his red flag proposal, and the governor, who seldom lets political courage dictate his performance, may be. Following complaints from conservatives and leaders in his own party, Abbott already had indicated, in a tweet, that his resolve – if he ever had any – to see the Legislature enact a red flag law was melting.

Patrick and Abbott would rather keep the firearms industry happy, as well as the thousands of Texas voters who believe that the Second Amendment allows no room for common sense or public safety. Remember, both have proposed arming more teachers, a dangerous idea that would allow the gun industry to sell even more guns but wouldn’t effectively reduce gun violence in schools.

After the Santa Fe shootings, Abbott and Patrick also proposed making school facilities more secure against armed intruders and improving mental health services for students, ideas that have merit but are very expensive. Neither has proposed a substantial source of funding to help budget-strapped school districts implement these ideas, and, given their history of shortchanging public education, they aren’t likely to.

State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who tried but failed to get a red flag law enacted last year, reacted to Patrick’s opposition. “There are some very disturbed people who shouldn’t have guns, at least temporarily, and we believe we can devise a way to identify them fairly and constitutionally while protecting Second Amendment rights,” Moody said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick states opposition to “red flag” gun laws





Playing politics with history and education


You may recall that not too many years ago a majority on the State Board of Education brought ridicule upon themselves and the state of Texas by writing curriculum standards for Texas students that downplayed slavery as the cause of the Civil War.

Slavery is cited throughout the Texas secession declaration, adopted in 1861, and the document makes clear that slavery was the reason Texas left the Union to join the other southern states preparing for war over the same issue.

The board majority, however, chose to play politics with history and with education, and now Gov. Greg Abbott, in his own way, is doing the same thing. The governor doesn’t write curriculum standards, but he has been presented with an opportunity to make a strong political statement for historical accuracy and scholarship and so far has refused to do so.

Last year, a legislator called Abbott’s attention to the fact that a plaque on public display in the state Capitol also denied that slavery was a major cause of the Civil War. The plaque, sponsored by Confederate descendants and apologists, was erected in 1959, years after the South had lost the war. It was erected, instead, during the early years of the civil rights movement, perhaps as a pushback against the descendants of slaves who were still fighting for the political and civil justices they had long been denied by the descendants of secessionists.

The legislator, state Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas, an African American Democrat, brought his concerns to Abbott in a private meeting last October, nine months ago, and asked that the State Preservation Board, which the governor chairs, remove the plaque. Johnson has since been joined by 40 other legislators, including some members of the governor’s own party, but the plaque remains.

Among the state leadership, only House Speaker Joe Straus has called for its removal. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick hasn’t weighed in. And Abbott’s office said the plaque’s future will have to be determined by the Legislature because the Legislature authorized its placement in the Capitol in the first place. That may be so, but that doesn’t prohibit the governor from exercising leadership and demanding that lawmakers remove the plaque after they convene in January.

Instead, Abbott remains silent. What is he afraid of?

Does he disagree with historians and educators? Is he content to perpetuate a lie for Capitol visitors to see? Is he afraid of offending Confederate descendants? Or is he afraid of racists who want to undo the civil rights gains of the past 60 years? Racists, after all, do vote, they have been emboldened by President Trump and this is an election year.

The State Board of Education is taking another look at the history curriculum standards this year, giving it another chance to be honest with school children. The governor, meanwhile, has a chance to publicly refute a lie and show school children and their parents some political courage.

45 Texas lawmakers in favor of removing Confederate plaque; Abbott mum