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!