Texas leaders have been saying for weeks that teacher pay would be among the top priorities in the new legislative session, and they've wasted no time following up on that. This week, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) introduced Senate Bill 3, which would allocate $3.7 billion in funding to Texas schools to be used for a raise of $5,000 per teacher. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick touted the plan during his inaugural address this week, vowing he will work to get it passed. Gov. Greg Abbott and new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) have both said they support funding teacher raises as well.
So far, teachers (or at least their representatives) seem fairly pleased with the proposal. "We are optimistic because you have the governor, the lieutenant governor and the house speaker all prioritizing public education," says Lonnie Hollingsworth, general counsel for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. He tells KTRH they hope the legislature will go a step further. "In addition to funding the teacher salary increases, to give school districts additional funding so they can pay additional to teachers who are in the hardest positions and things like that."
Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), says the proposed raise is desperately needed. "Teachers in Texas are currently getting paid about $7,300 below the national average, so it's a good step in the right direction," he tells KTRH. Candelaria also believes SB 3 is a major improvement over what Texas leaders pushed in the last session. "What was proposed two years ago was mandating school districts to give teachers a pay raise out of existing funds, without any actual additional state money to pay for it," says Candelaria.
Additional state money is definitely on the table this year. The only question is how much of it. While SB 3 proposes $3.7 billion in new funding, the House budget proposal includes $7 billion in additional funding for public education.