Texas House votes for $1,850 raises for teachers, support staff

By Aliyya Swaby

The Texas Tribune

texastribune.org

The Texas House on Wednesday approved a provision pitched by Democrats that would require school districts to give all school employees pay raises of roughly $1,850, using some of the extra money districts receive from a comprehensive school finance bill.

That provision, filed by House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, appears to serve as an attempt to compromise on an issue that quickly became a fault line between the House and Senate on how to spend money on schools. Until Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has said he would prefer to give school districts flexibility on how to use additional funding and that he does not favor a key Senate proposal for $5,000 teacher pay raises.

“This is a sustainable way of providing increased compensation to our teachers and other employees,” Turner said Wednesday afternoon, explaining his amendment to his peers in the House. “It establishes a floor, but it requires every school district to spend at least 25 percent of its basic allotment increase on pay raises. They can go beyond that if they wish to.”

The raise was approved as an amendment to House Bill 3, the House’s version of the school finance bill. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the full bill later Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Republican president of the Senate, has prioritized $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay raises over other measures to improve school finance, championing legislation that would do so starting during his January inauguration. That $4 billion piece of legislation, Senate Bill 3, passed unanimously out of the Senate last month.

Turner’s amendment would not add to the cost of HB 3, but rather mandate school districts to use a quarter of the additional funding they receive to provide raises for school district employees who are not administrators — with the majority going to across-the-board raises for full-time employees and the rest going to discretionary raises.

The raises backed by the House would also go to support staff — costing about $2.4 billion, according to Turner’s office. The Senate’s proposed raises would be for teachers and librarians only.

Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, had planned to propose a provision similar to the Senate’s that would give full-time teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses $5,000 pay raises. But he chose to pull it down and publicly support Turner’s amendment instead.

The Senate Finance Committee Wednesday voted out a version of its budget that also includes $2.3 billion for school finance reform — but the Senate does not have a clear plan outlined for how to deliver that money to schools. It also includes $2.7 billion for property tax relief, but it’s still unclear how the upper chamber’s proposal would apply, if at all, to school districts.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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