TEA pay-raise report has teachers scratching their heads

In the first year in which the changes from Texas’ school finance bill, HB 3, took effect, the Texas Education Agency is reporting that teachers on average received significant raises, but that doesn’t sit right for many teachers who are questioning the math and looking at their paychecks.

For the 2019-2020 school year, teachers who had more than 5 years of experience received an average pay raise of over $5,200, while teachers with less than five years of experience received an average pay raise of more than $3,800, according to the report. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office noted in its statement on the report that “the pay increases are averages of all teacher raises in Texas; individual raises vary.”

Upon the announcement of these numbers, Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were quick to take credit for what they termed as “historic” raises. The real story is that educators electing pro-public education candidates in 2018—along with a rosy state budget picture—led to a bipartisan effort for a substantial investment in our schools. 

But teachers took to social media to share stories questioning these averages. The report relied on district-submitted, unaudited data in a standard spreadsheet template from TEA. (If your district is one of the 1,019 that reported, you can find the data here.) Texas AFT has many questions about how some districts reported compensation. For instance, TEA included in these average increases any “new or increased employer funded benefits.” So an increase in a district’s contribution to your health insurance premiums would be counted as a pay raise, even if your premiums stayed the same (or even went up).

Districts have until December 1 to report their data, but TEA conveniently handed its totals to the governor just before the general election to give him some bragging points. Nevertheless, we do know that HB 3 provided a much-needed boost to teacher salaries, which are still thousands of dollars below the national average. We also still do not completely know how the economic losses of the last year will affect the state budget in the next biennium. State funding is tied to various economic factors, so we will not get a clear picture of how this will play out until next year. No matter what, Texas AFT will continue fighting to ensure that Texas teachers get a fair deal. 

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