TCTA General Counsel Lonnie Hollingsworth pressed state lawmakers on Tuesday to ensure teachers receive a pay raise by providing funding for a salary increase and requiring school districts to use the money for that purpose.
Speaking at a joint hearing of the House Public Education Committee and Higher Education Committee focused on teacher training and retention, Hollingsworth also noted the importance of improving teacher working conditions, suggesting the elimination of nonteaching duties and encroachments on teacher autonomy.
TCTA presented an analysis showing that teacher pay has not kept pace with overall increases in school funding over the past two decades.
In 2001, teacher salaries accounted for 43.8 percent of school districts’ per-pupil operating expenditures. Two decades later, that figure has dropped to 38.1 percent.
If teacher pay had remained in line with increases in school expenditures over that same period, the average teacher salary would have been 15 percent higher in 2021 — lifting the average teacher salary of $57,641 by an additional $8,660.
“The Texas Legislature has, at times, recognized the singular importance of teachers when crafting school finance legislation by explicitly directing school districts to raise teacher salaries,” Hollingsworth testified. “Going forward, TCTA recommends that lawmakers fund a salary increase and require districts to use the money for that purpose. Otherwise, history suggests that teachers will not get it.”
Hollingsworth underscored the need for an across-the-board increase for all teachers, rather than relying on narrowly focused compensation programs, such as the Teacher Incentive Allotment.
“If the goal of the committee is to attract and retain teachers, prospective employees need assurances, not ‘chances.’ Minimum salaries need to be raised to competitive levels, as do benefits. The data show that fewer people are willing to make the choice to be in a profession that puts them at a financial disadvantage. Incentive pay is simply not a substitute for overall compensation increases,” Hollingsworth argued in his testimony.
TCTA member Jean Streepey, who serves as the chair of the State Board for Educator Certification, told the lawmakers that many teachers have reached the tipping point now because the ever-increasing demands of the profession have collided with a decrease in public support and a variety of new professional options for educators.