AUSTIN — Several Democratic state representatives on Tuesday announced a new bill that would raise educator pay by $15,000.
If passed, the bill would be the largest raise for educators in Texas history, bringing the new minimum teacher pay to $48,600 and the new average teacher pay to $73,887.
If the bill is approved, Texas would rank seventh in teacher pay nationwide, lawmakers said.
“Raising teacher pay is something we can do and something we must do,” said state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock.
The bill proposes using slightly less than half of the state’s historic surplus of $32.7 billion to give an across-the-board raise to the state’s educators. It also includes a 25% pay raise for school support staff.
The 2022 Texas Teacher Poll by the Charles Butt Foundation found that poor pay was one of the leading reasons why educators left or are considering leaving the field.
While Texas lawmakers passed a pay raise in 2019 that gave every classroom teacher a $5,000 raise, rising inflation has erased much of those gains, per the poll.
Lawmakers said roughly 40% of the state’s educators are working second jobs to make ends meet, adding that Texas teacher pay currently lags the national average by $7,500.
Even so, state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, asserts that Texas doesn’t have a teacher shortage. Instead, it has a teacher retention issue, she said.
“The teachers exist, the teachers are here (in Texas),” Hinojosa said. “They have chosen to walk away from a profession that undervalues them, underpays them and under-resources their job.”
Leander ISD teacher Deanna Perkins, who was present at Tuesday’s news conference, said she believes that investing in educators is equivalent to investing in children and their futures.
“Until our great state of Texas steps up to give us the compensation we deserve, many of our amazing teachers are going to find careers where they are respected and paid for their time and their skills,” Perkins said. “There’s no teacher shortage. There’s a ‘respecting teachers, their expertise and skills and pay them what they’re worth’ shortage.”
Talarico acknowledged the request is large and “bold” and would require bipartisan support, but he said he is hopeful this legislative session will result in some compromise to improve teacher pay.
He said he is also hopeful that by pushing the bill forward, it will signal to other educators nationwide and any potential educators in Texas that the state stands with them.
“There are some folks who think this is too big, too bold, too ambitious. The Texas I know does big things. We lead the way for the state. … In Texas, we go big or go home, and it's time, this moment, to go big,” Talarico said.