From Pay to Parental Leave: Texas Education Could Get Boost This Session

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Some Texas lawmakers are looking to help out the state's teachers.
Texas teachers’ pocketbooks could get a bit fatter — $15,000 fatter, to be exact — if certain state lawmakers get their way.

Several Texas legislators are looking to pass laws this session aimed at attracting and retaining educators.

Since even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some schoolhouses have struggled to fill staffing vacancies. But Texas Rep. James Talarico hopes that House Bill 1548 will help keep educators in the classroom.

The Austin Democrat is proposing that teachers receive a pay increase of $15,000, which would be the largest raise in Texas history. Talarico said via video statement that around 40% of educators in the Lone Star State work a second job to cover their bills.

“It’s no wonder thousands of them are leaving the profession entirely,” he said. “So, I’m hopeful that this big bill to do a big pay increase for every teacher in Texas will help address that emergency in our classrooms.”

Texas isn’t the only state to grapple with a teacher shortage. Last year, a National Education Association survey found that 55% of its members have considered ditching the profession, with 9 in 10 of them experiencing burnout.

A $15,000 raise would go a long way toward fixing the state’s teacher shortage, said Clay Robison, spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association. It would help educators, to be sure, but it would also benefit students to have more seasoned instructors remain in the classroom.

Robison noted that teacher pay in the state trails behind the national average by some $7,500. The more experienced the teacher, he said, the bigger the gap.

Talarico’s proposal is popular among the state’s liberals. In a Twitter post touting the bill, the Texas Democratic Party urged Republicans to “get with the curriculum.”

“Give teachers a raise instead of igniting culture wars against them,” the party added.
Over the past couple of years, ultraconservative Texas lawmakers have sought to restrict what can be taught in the state’s public schools.

Critical race theory was effectively outlawed from classroom lectures in 2021, even though districts denied that it was being taught at all. Some lawmakers this session have started eyeing a ban on discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in school, mirroring Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law.

"[Teachers] deserve more than what they're getting." – Clay Robison, Texas State Teachers Association

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Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Nathan Johnson of Dallas has filed legislation that he says is geared toward improving public education.

Senate Bill 88 would increase Texas’ per-pupil basic allotment — the amount of money the state sends districts based on average daily attendance rates. Education Week reported the state's per-pupil spending lags by more than $4,000 compared with the national average. Johnson said he wants to "link it to inflation so that school districts don't see their baseline budget erode in tandem with rising prices every year."

Johnson has also filed Senate Bill 263, which would require schools to be funded based on average enrollment rather than on average daily attendance. (Austin Democratic state Rep. Gina Hinojosa had filed an identical bill in the House.) This would put Texas in line with 43 other states that already operate that way, Johnson said.

Another of Johnson's proposals, SB 350, would require districts and open-enrollment charter schools to implement paid parental leave policies for full-time employees following the birth or adoption of a child.

"I believe in our public education system. I want it to work. And I think there are some deficiencies that need to be addressed," Johnson said. "All three of these bills address specific problems with the way we fund and treat our public schools and our public school teachers, and I think if we start doing things like this, we'll see good results in our public school system."

The Texas State Teachers Association would also like to see a cost-of-living increase for retired educators, Robison said. Last year, pensioners received less than $2,200 per month on average, but he’s heard of some who got less than $1,000.

The way Robison sees it, retired teachers deserve better.

“They spend a lifetime of dedicated service to schoolchildren, helping many, many millions of schoolchildren to get started on good educations and good careers,” he said. “They deserve more than what they're getting.

“And we have this almost $33 billion [budget] surplus,” Robison continued. “The state of Texas can afford it.”