About that proposed pay raise…

Falling US MoneyGov. Greg Abbott surprised many in the education community on Tuesday when he stated what is old hat for us, but seldom admitted by fiscal hawks: “Teacher pay is too low.”

The governor followed that with a call to add a $1,000 teacher pay raise to this summer’s special session.

Fantastic!

Only the state is not going to pay for it.

In fact, the governor claimed such a raise “can easily be achieved by passing laws that reprioritize how schools spend money, and we can do that without taxpayers spending a penny more.” In other words: An unfunded mandate.

Well, at least we can appreciate the sentiment. Or perhaps we could, had the governor not followed that empty promise with a more disturbing one: To pass a laundry list of bills aimed at stripping teachers of their rights and redirecting even more resources from Texas school children – at a time when schools and teachers are being asked to do more with less.

Let’s quickly recap how lawmakers spent our money in this most recent legislative session.

Despite ATPE-supported attempts by leaders in the Texas House of Representatives to increase public education funding across the board, the final budget negotiated with the Senate actually decreased the overall amount of state spending on public schools by about $1.1 billion, forcing districts to rely on rising local property tax collections just to maintain current funding levels. The decision by Senate leadership to scuttle the House’s school finance legislation also means some schools are likely to close as existing funding streams expire.

Within this budget, Gov. Greg Abbott requested that lawmakers designate $236 million for “high-quality” pre-K programs, without providing any additional money to do so. This will basically force districts to cut money from other parts of their own budgets; whether that means from teacher payroll, band instruments, or football pads, it will be up to districts to decide. Now the governor has proposed using the same approach to generate a raise of $1,000 for teachers over the course of a year.

The state’s underfunding of public education has already had a pretty devastating effect on teachers’ healthcare. While ATPE effectively advocated for increased funding for TRS-Care, lawmakers chose to only increase that funding enough to avoid shutting the system down completely. The result is a restructured TRS-Care plan that reduces benefits and raises premiums. Lawmakers’ decision not to provide adequate funding will also result in an average rate increase of 8.1 percent for those enrolled in TRS-ActiveCare plans.

Let’s not forget that this is the same budget that found $800 million to spend on border security, despite President Trump’s promises to ramp up federal involvement along the Rio Grande.

Now Gov. Abbott intends to hold a 30-day special session at a cost of around $1 million in taxpayer money to pass a long list of bills that were either unnecessary or too controversial to pass during the previous five months of the regular session. This includes legislation that would make it easier for districts to fire teachers, plus the anti-teacher payroll deduction legislation and private school vouchers for students with special needs.

ATPE has fought and continues to fight for educators to be paid what they deserve. That means a pay raise that is fully funded by the state legislature. Without any funding for the governor’s offer to raise teacher pay – and with that offer having been waved in front of a grab bag of other offensive legislation – we cannot help but feel trepidation about his proposal.

17_web_Spotlight_AdvocacyCentral_1Now more than ever, Texas educators must be vigilant. We now know that this special session is shaping up to be an all-out assault on teachers and public education by the governor and lieutenant governor. We urge ATPE members to be active through ATPE’s Advocacy Central and let your legislators know you will stand up for your rights and those of your students.

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4 thoughts on “About that proposed pay raise…

  1. Pingback: Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 9, 2017 | Teach the Vote

  2. Barbara Phillips

    Not only did our legislators drastically hurt our schools and teachers (which should be top priority), they also fail to tale care of retired teachers who have had no increase in their retirement for over 10 years and took away their ability to draw their full social security for which many have paid into before and after teaching. Furthermore, if my husband passes away before I do, I will not be entitled to a penny of his social security and will live in poverty. Shame on all of you. And 800 million for a wall they can get over with ladders? Shame, shame on you. Teachers and retired teachers will remember this at election time.

    Reply
  3. Lisa R Wright

    The current state of affairs makes it very difficult to recommend a career in public education to the children of friends and family members. Many of us give all our adult working years in service to the children of this state only to be told by our politicians that we, and what we do, are of no importance to them. Would these same people in Austin be willing to sit across a table from their childrens’ teachers? Would they have the courage? Retirement was once something to look forward to. Now it is something I dread, fearing that I will not be able to take care of myself adequately. We are worth better health care and retirement. Austin has done little to be proud of when it comes to the teachers of Texas. Shame on you!

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  4. B. Chin

    I am a classroom instructional aide and have been for 15 years, Mr. Governor. Scary, but true, my annual pay is less than $21,000.00. Healthcare costs are going in one direction only, up. Cost of living, what is that? Save for retirement. How, if the money today needs to pay for premiums, inflation, healthcare, prescriptions, living expenses etc etc. All with a close-to-poverty level salary. Looking ahead to retirement, not looking forward to, money-wise will be tough. Further, Texas is one of only 15 states not paying into Social Security. Who in Texas government arrived at that? I would gladly have paid into s.s. So all my years in private industry before education will provide a greatly reduced s.s. benefit, all because the great state of Texas decided that educators, firemen, and others do not pay into s.s. Further, now there’s uncertainty about funding the pension in years ahead. Mr. Governor, Austin needs to realize the great state of Texas will not be able to keep the great educators in Texas. Retirement is exciting in that I am leaving this great state and why not? To pay the ever increasing property taxes, with what? You have got us.

    Reply

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