AUSTIN — House Democrats on Tuesday filed a bill that would give Texas teachers a $15,000 nationwide pay raise.
The measure, introduced by Austin Democratic Representative James Talarico, will give school districts enough money to give teachers, librarians, counselors and school nurses a $1,500-a-month pay increase.
Other school workers will receive a 25% pay increase.
Texas teachers earn $7,500 a year less than the national average, Talarico said at a news conference at the Capitol.
“It’s no wonder that thousands of educators are leaving the profession,” he said. “We have an extreme shortage of teachers in the state, and this calls for urgent action by the Legislature.”
While it is unlikely to pass in a GOP-controlled legislature, the bill’s supporters said they hope it will kick-start what they called an urgent discussion on teacher pay.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio noted that the Republicans who control the Legislature have made it clear that in order to use part of the record surplus without violating the tax spending cap approved by Texas voters almost 45 years ago, they want to invest in the proposed one-time “investment” in constitutional amendments.
Such amendments require a two-thirds vote in each chamber, said Martinez Fischer, who attended the press conference with Talarico.
“We’ll get to a point where we might need more than a simple majority to pass something, and then we’ll have something to say about it,” said Martinez Fischer, who leads the 64 Democrats in the 150-member House. . “So I think you can add this measure to the top of our list of things we want to discuss before we vote like that.”
Talarico and Irving Democratic Rep. Terry Meza, both former schoolteachers, said they hope to win bipartisan support for the bill to raise wages.
As an attraction for school administrators, especially in rural and smaller areas, the bill would also increase the state’s minimum wage. For new teachers, the minimum wage will rise to $48,660 per year from the current $27,320.
Such an increase — more than $20,000 a year — will occur primarily in rural school districts, Talarico said.
“That’s why we hope we get bipartisan support,” he said.
Meza and Talarico noted that the bill would raise the average teacher salary in Texas from about $56,000 currently to almost $74,000, which would lift it to 7th in the state in teacher salaries.
“This bill aims to make Texas one of the best places in the country when it comes to the quality of teachers and the quality of schools,” Meza said.
Comptroller Glenn Hegar said that along with a projected cash rollover from the current budget cycle of nearly $33 billion, the state should see significant revenue growth in the next two years.
Talarico estimates that the Legislature has about $47 billion of “unused funds” that it could spend on this session. While the exact cost of his bill has not been determined, it is clear that over a two-year cycle that begins September 1, up to $20 billion or more will be spent on it.
“Keeping these surpluses while educators and children suffer is immoral,” he said.
Public education advocates are warning of a potential exodus of teachers, many of whom report high levels of stress as they grapple with pandemic-induced learning losses, low wages and culture war attacks from Republicans.
About three-quarters of Texas teachers said they were seriously considering leaving the profession because of a lack of respect and support, a Charles Butt Foundation poll showed in the fall.
The state had 376,086 classroom teachers in the 2021-22 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency. Nearly 12% of them left the profession that year, compared to about 10% in previous years.
To deal with recent talent shortages, many counties have offered one-time retention and hiring bonuses. Teacher groups expressed gratitude but also said they were looking for long-term solutions.
Governor Greg Abbott has convened a Teacher Search Task Force to explore possible solutions. The group is expected to make its recommendations by next month.The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and discussion of pressing educational issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative supported by The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottie Lyle, Texas Community Foundation, Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Didi Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solution Journalists Network , Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab’s journalism.