EDITORIAL — Teacher pay boom: Bold step forward

Published 12:17 am Friday, August 9, 2019

That “50 large” that starting teachers at Port Arthur ISD are pulling down in salary these days was no misprint this week. Nor was it beginner’s luck.

It represents the high-water mark for teacher pay in 37 districts in this Texas region, making Port Arthur the first system to reach that level.

“The announcement was that we would start at $50,000 a year for zero experience in the Port Arthur school district,” which Superintendent Mark Porterie called “a monumental feat.”

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Porterie also said experienced teachers got raises of at least $1,675. He said the system “focused on the midpoint,” those with eight to 21 years of experience.

Teachers are professionals and as such ought to paid that way. They earn their credentials by a minimum of four years of college study — many teachers continue their studies for years after that — and through a lot of sweat and tears in the classroom.

That’s why the PAISD trustees were wise to shoot high for pay. That will make Port Arthur a more attractive place to teach and help draw job applicants who can make a decent life for themselves here based on their paychecks.

Port Arthur pay was revealed in the same week in which Education Week released results of a poll that suggested teachers elsewhere in the country are troubled and frustrated by low pay, inadequate school funding and other issues.

That scientific poll said some 55 percent of teachers said they’d vote to strike for heftier paychecks. More than half said they’d strike for a bigger pay on standards, as well. More than half said they’d considered quitting in recent years.

It’s not a matter of teachers alone against school boards elsewhere. It’s a matter of the public, too, siding with teachers: 7 of 10 members of the public said they’d support strikes for raises; 8 of 10 said they’d back giving teachers more say in policy.

Porterie said the raises make a bold statement: The district is not only raising pay, but lifting the bar. Enhanced teacher pay and benefits will encourage better applicants.

Here’s how one Port Arthur teacher perceives the improved pay, from our Thursday report:

“…It’s nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, I have a good paycheck coming in. They value my job and the things I bring to the table.’”

Port Arthur people will pay dearly in providing top pay for top teachers. It’s not always a town that has a lot of extra jingle. But good teachers are worth it; good educations last a lifetime.

An expression that gained popularity in the ’70s was attributed (wrongly) by Ann Landers to Derek Bok of Harvard: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Let’s not.