SENATE APPROVES TEACHER PAY RAISES, EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
(AUSTIN) — The Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would grant a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for all Texas teachers, with even more going toward teachers in smaller districts and those that perform exceptionally in the classroom. SB 9, dubbed "the Teachers' Bill of Rights" by author and Conroe Senator Brandon Creighton, also includes a number of provisions designed to ease the increasing burdens faced by teachers in Texas. An interim legislative study found that not only does Texas have a dire shortage of qualified classroom teachers, but that three-fourths of current teachers have considered leaving the profession at one point. Creighton said this bill is designed to reverse that trend by offering unprecedented levels of support to the state's educators. "It is specifically designed for the hearts and minds of our Texas teachers and how we can make sure that they not only feel lifted up and valued, but they feel inspired and renewed again to stay in the profession," he said.
Teachers in smaller districts would qualify for a $6,000 bump in pay, in order to bring them more in line with their urban colleagues. While the average starting pay for a Texas teacher is near $60,000 annually, in rural areas, Creighton said, many begin around $30,000 a year. The bill would also expand the state's teacher merit pay program. Since implementation in 2019, Creighton said that the program has benefited more than seven thousand Texas teachers, adding between four and seventeen thousand dollars to their base salaries. In all, the bill contains $3.3 billion in additional teacher compensation. Teachers with young children could also take advantage of existing pre-k programs at campuses where they teach; Creighton said that many teachers don’t currently qualify for these programs, which are aimed at children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Aside from compensation, the bill seeks to improve teacher support through mentorship
programs. It would establish a residency program, where college students learning to be educators can actually work alongside veteran teachers in the classroom to gain valuable experience and be paid to do so. It also expands the mentorship program for new teachers, pairing master teachers with younger educators with only one or two years of experience. Teachers would also be empowered to remove a disruptive or abusive student from the classroom and would have to sign off on any plan to return the student to class.
Next, the Senate considered SB 8, also by Creighton, which would make it easier for parents to move their children into different schools, including private schools. Creighton titled this measure the "Parental Bill of Rights", emphasizing that it would put power in the hands of parents to direct their children's education. "Senate Bill 8 is a game-changer for educational freedom in Texas," he said. Parents could move students to a school in another district - subject to capacity - if they feel it would benefit their child. It would also allow parents with children in public schools to apply to receive up to $8,000 in state funds to place in an education savings account (ESA) to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, or other educational related expenses. Creighton said that smaller school districts can feel the loss of even a single student much more keenly than large urban districts, so the bill would provide districts with fewer than 20,000 students a $10,000 grant for five years for each departing student. Funding for ESAs would come out of general state revenue rather than dedicated public school funds and would cover up to 62,500 ESAs. Applicants would also be prioritized based on the quality of the school the student is leaving, with two-thirds of the slots open to students currently attending schools ranked C, D, or F on the state’s A-F campus quality scale. The bill was amended to open ten percent of the slots to low-income families whose children currently attend private school and have a combined income of less than twice of the federal poverty level.
The bill also gives parents more latitude to review instructional materials, streamlines grievance processes, requires parental consent for changes to health or wellness policies for their children, and bans curriculum related to human sexuality or gender identity.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 11th at 11 a.m.