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One Man's Ramblings

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Teacher pay raise moves forward

Local teachers have a reason to feel positive about the future as the Senate Finance Committee in Austin on Monday passed a bill (Senate Bill 3) that would provide annual $5,000 pay raises for all full-time classroom teachers in the state.

The bill is now eligible to be taken up by the full Senate, and is being championed by none other than Lt.Gov. Dan Patrick. A bipartisan group of 20 co-authors have signed on.

Not everyone is happy, and the future is still not written in concrete, judging by testimony given in a three-hour public hearing by the committee.

There is even a difference of opinion among pro-education advocates. Some are wanting more flexibility on how to spend the additional money. Some teachers obviously want the darn pay raise straight up.

Other teachers are asking for the raises to be expanded to include librarians, counselors and support staff.

For real, the bill is a good starting point, and it will be interesting how the Texas House works their own magic.

A few things that were added to the bill Monday have me a bit concerned. One is that the pay raises will also be provided to charter school teachers (I thought they were private-run entities).

The other change was to prevent school districts from decreasing teacher salaries in the future.

Does that mean that the state will faithfully provide each and every year the funding for these raises? Or will they end it or lessen it, and have local school districts come up with the money?

And we don’t know if the bill will morph in the Senate into a merit-based pay raise, which is an entirely different animal.

I am a big proponent in funding education properly via the state. Their share of the cost per pupil has declined dramatically over the past 15-20 years.

Leaving local school districts to deal with the public’s rage over increasing property taxes.

The money has to come from somewhere, obviously, and not just property owners.

I’ve heard of suggestions to increase taxes on various things from soda pop to gasoline.

We’ve got some bright minds among the lawmakers in Austin. I hope they use them this session to come up with some common sense solutions to school finance.

For sure, our teachers need to be paid more.