This is the first of three deep dives we will take into the final report from the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force issued last week. The recommendations from the report fell into three broad categories:
- Training & Support
- Working Conditions
Today, we will take a closer look at the largest and most important set of recommendations related to compensation.
Increase Overall Compensation and Support Strategic Compensation Strategies
This first recommendation gets at the heart of our Respect Agenda: a minimum overall compensation for certified staff of at least $10,000. The report recognizes that in order to compensate our teachers adequately, we must look for ways to increase funding to the overall system via the basic allotment. We can further increase district funds by supporting an enrollment-based funding formula rather than our current and burdensome average daily attendance (ADA) model that left nearly 300,000 students uncounted in the 2021-22 school year.
While there is nothing “wrong” with the second recommendation of increasing the salary schedule, the reality is that most districts already pay well above this minimum. However, we would support legislation that raises the floor for compensation for our professional teaching staff.
Where we take issue with the report is with “strategic compensation.” TEA wants to spend more on its pay-for-performance scheme known as the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA), even though it has been demonstrated to be difficult to implement in an equitable manner across districts and disproportionately leaves out rural school systems and teachers in non-core content areas like CTE and the arts. TIA cannot come at the expense of an across-the-board increase for all certified and classified staff.
Enhance Teachers’ Total Compensation Package
Time and time again, we hear how teachers cannot afford health insurance for themselves or their families, yet the state and district contribution of $225 to teachers’ health care packages has remained stagnant for 20 years.
Reducing the overall health care costs for teachers may then allow them to access that care for either the physical or mental wellness needed to sustain them in this rigorous profession. We support any legislation that would increase the state or district share of coverage and relieve our educators of this financial burden.
The report also recognizes the increased costs of living related to housing and childcare. This is why we support measures like SB 89 that would allow the children of teachers to qualify for prekindergarten for ages 3 and up, facilitating a teacher’s return to the workforce sooner, knowing their own families are receiving high-quality care and education.
Finally, the report recommends that the state explore ways to temporarily reduce the retire/rehire surcharge for retired educators. We think the removal of these reentry barriers should be permanent and we will advocate for ways that our retirees can continue to contribute to our system without penalty.
Provide Incentives & Support for Hard-to-Staff Areas
Even before COVID-19, many certification areas like bilingual education and special education were difficult to staff, due in part to the amount of testing required and the expense related to these certifications. We have long supported waiving onerous and expensive testing fees, and we hope that removing this barrier to the profession will help staff high-need areas now and could be expanded in future to include all new teachers.
Wrapping up this first summary, we note that while the report is only focused on certified, professional staff, our union is equally focused on our paraprofessional and support staff. We know it takes many hard-working folks to keep a campus running, and we remain committed that all our legislative efforts related to compensation will include a minimum 15% raise for our support personnel.