The Texas Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill giving all classroom teachers and school librarians a $5,000 annual pay raise, advancing it to the House.
The bill — priority legislation for senators as well as Gov. Greg Abbott, who made boosting teacher pay an emergency item for lawmakers this session — is aimed at recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers.
“Before we do anything, can we please show our teachers that we value them?” said the bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.
Although school librarians had not originally been included, Nelson extended the raise to them by adding a last-minute amendment Monday.
The American-Statesman reported last month that about 4,600 school librarians would be excluded from the bill even though they are required to have taught in the classroom for two years to qualify for the position.
“I didn’t know that,” Nelson said of the teaching requirement. “They are teachers.”
At a cost of $3.9 billion over the next two years, the bill would create an allotment in the school funding formula that is intended to reassure school districts that the state, not local revenue, would fund the pay raises.
Average teacher pay in Texas for 2017-18 was $53,167, compared with the national average of $60,483, according to the National Education Association. There are about 350,000 classroom teachers and librarians across the state.
The bill still excludes other school employees, including teacher’s aides, counselors, bus drivers and custodians.
“I still think that counselors are being given so many duties,” said Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio. “If we really want to talk about school safety, then they need to have the capacity to talk to the students. Maybe we need more of them, maybe we can attract more through a little more pay.”
Nelson responded that the bill doesn’t prevent school districts from independently giving raises to other school employees.
Education groups that haven’t immediately supported the legislation have said they disagree with the bill’s method of giving teacher raises. They said money that would otherwise go to raises should go to school districts, which could use it for other types of raises or for hiring more teachers.
The bill would prevent districts from using the $5,000 raises to supplant other raises they plan to give. It also includes charter school teachers and librarians, and covers the associated increased pension costs to school districts.