“Especially our more established teachers are really starting to speak up and say, you know what, I didn’t get this because of the pay, but I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I still only make $60,000 a year. Cooke said. “So I think we as a state really need to see what value this has because not only are they great class leaders, but they are mentors now.”
Foundation President Shari Albright said one way districts could increase teachers’ pay and help spread out planning and teaching hours would be to increase the number of days a year teachers are on contract.
“Your high school principals, for example, are on contract 230 days a year in most school districts. That’s a big difference from 183 days as a teacher,” Albright said. “If we need them at this level, what does that mean for our teachers?”
Some San Antonio school districts have made a small change to help reduce the workload for teachers by adding a few workdays for teachers to the school calendar to help them catch up on grading and paperwork.
But more significant changes in salaries and schedules will require more money than the counties have. To give teachers even a 3% raise, ISD trustees in San Antonio had to bet that enrollment would increase enough to avoid a budget deficit in the coming years.
Albright said larger increases would require the state to contribute more to public education.
“This is the year we have to think about how we can raise that level for all teachers,” Albright said. “Especially because we’re coming into the session with more money to spend on the state of Texas than we’ve had in many, many years.”
Higher oil prices and inflation have added to the state’s surplus, according to Texas Comptroller Glen Hegar.
Texas legislators voted to raise teacher salaries in the 2019 legislative session, but the average teacher salary in Texas is lower than a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.
However, a 20% salary increase by itself is unlikely to stop the outflow of teachers. Working conditions also need to be improved. Former teacher Billy Cano said he took a $20,000 pay cut to leave.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about saying, ‘That’s what you’re worth to us. That’s why we will pay you. And again, I don’t know if this applies exclusively to the districts as a society,” Cano said. “Since I last checked, public education is funded by taxes.”
Teachers interviewed by the Charles Butt Foundation said they now feel much less respected and supported by politicians and the public. The foundation didn’t ask teachers specifically about the political battles that have seeped into schools, such as book bans or how racism is taught, but it’s clear that how education is legislated and talked about has an impact.
“In 2020, 20% of teachers felt they were valued elected officials. And it went down to 5%. But if we talk about Texans in general, in 2020, 44% of teachers — that is, still less than half, but almost half — felt they were valued Texans. And this figure dropped to 17%. In fact, this is the biggest drop among the various groups that we asked teachers about, ”Cook said.
Albright said the Charles Butt Foundation also polls the public about their attitudes towards education, and this survey shows that we have systemic problems in how we view education as a profession.
“We see families all the time, as well as teachers, not wanting the next generation of students, or their own children, to be teaching,” Albright said. “This is not a teacher’s perception that something is wrong. Society thinks there is something wrong with our education system right now.”
Kano notes that we show what we value as a society by what we spend our money on. Ultimately, the solution to the teacher shortage may come down to Texas voters, who will have to decide what they value and, in turn, convince their state representatives to put more money into a system designed to educate their children.