A Key Senate Vote on Minimum Teacher Pay

For decades Texas has maintained a minimum salary schedule for teachers, recognizing in state law that there’s something to be said for experience and it ought to be rewarded. For almost as long, an ideological campaign against that minimum salary schedule has been under way, with many unsuccessful attempts to kill it based on the claim that a salary step schedule merely rewards longevity.

Fresh research in fact shows a strong positive correlation between increasing years of experience and teacher effectiveness (see “New Studies Find That, For Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter”), but in the Texas Senate this week the war on the salary-step schedule continued with passage of SB 893, which would abolish the minimum annual pay steps in state law for teachers.  (Curiously, the step schedule would be retained under SB 893 for counselors, librarians, speech pathologists, and school nurses—for now.)

Though SB 893 passed by a final vote of 27 to 4, a key amendment to restore the minimum step schedule for teachers actually garnered 8 votes. That vote was the clearest test of Senate views on the issue of maintaining the minimum salary schedule, disentangled from the other provisions of SB 893 (which combines some positive language on teacher-directed professional development with some dangerous new latitude for the commissioner of education to impose test-driven teacher appraisal statewide).

The key amendment to restore the minimum salary schedule was offered by Sen. Jose Menendez, Democrat of San Antonio. On that key vote, the eight senators who got it right by voting to keep the minimum salary schedule were:

Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio); Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso); Kirk Watson (D-Austin); Royce West (D-Dallas); and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).

The 23 who got it wrong by voting to table the Menendez amendment and thus to make years of experience a non-factor in teacher compensation were:

Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston); Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury); Konni Burton (R-Fort Worth); Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels); Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe); Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler); Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay); Bob Hall (R-Canton); Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills); Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen); Don Huffines (R-Dallas); Joan Huffman (R-Houston); Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham); Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound); Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville); Charles Perry (R-Lubbock); Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown); Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), the author of SB 893; Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood); Van Taylor (R-Plano); Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio); and John Whitmire (D-Houston).

The issue now lies in the hands of the Texas House, where a companion to SB 893, HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown), got a hearing on Tuesday, April 7. Texas AFT and allied educator organizations testified against the House bill. We will have more to report on this topic in future Hotlines.