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Democrats in the Texas House want to give teachers a $15,000 raise

 Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, is carrying a bill that would give teachers in Texas a $15,000 salary increase.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, is carrying a bill that would give teachers in Texas a $15,000 salary increase.

A $15,000 salary increase is the latest proposal introduced by Texas Democrats to address the state's teacher shortage. The goal is to keep more educators in the profession and potentially attract new ones to the field by giving them an across-the-board raise.

State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said his bill would be the largest salary increase for teachers in the state’s history. “That's the kind of bold action this moment requires. And we can do this,” Talarico said.

“Hoarding this surplus while educators and children are suffering is immoral. And it's also bad business,” he added, referring to Texas’s projected multi-billion dollar surplus. “Any business person worth their salt will tell you you don't stick your money under a mattress, you put your money to work by making smart investments. And the smartest investment we can make as a state is in the next generation.”

Before becoming a legislator, Talarico taught sixth grade in San Antonio. He said his former coworkers drove Ubers and sold their plasma to make ends meet.

“Now, 40% of Texas teachers work a second job just to pay the bills,” Talarico said, citing a survey conducted by the Charles Butt Foundation. “It’s no wonder that thousands of educators are leaving the profession. We have an emergency teacher shortage in this state, and it requires emergency action by the Texas Legislature.”

In 2021, Talarico filed a bill that would have made the minimum salary for teachers $70,000. It stalled in committee.

Teacher salaries vary between school districts. The current minimum salary for a beginning teacher in Texas is $33,600. According to the Texas Education Agency, the average salary for a teacher was $58,887 during the 2021-2022 school year.

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said Texas doesn’t actually have a teacher shortage — it just isn’t valuing them enough to keep them in the classroom. “Teachers exist. The teachers are here. They have chosen to walk away from a profession that undervalues them, under-pays them, and under-resources their job,” she said.

It’s unclear whether the Republican majority in the Legislature will consider the bill. House Speaker Dade Phelan declined The Texas Newsroom’s request for comment.

Initial state budget proposals filed last week indicate Republicans are open to increasing funding for public education. What form that increase will take, however, is not yet clear.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to provide increased funding for school districts and charter schools," according to the Texas House budget draft.

Education advocates have called on the Legislature to increase the so-called basic allotment — the minimum amount allocated per student — this year. That would give teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors an automatic pay increase.

As they stand now, the state’s budget proposals leave the basic allotment unchanged.

Copyright 2023 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
Camille Phillips covers education for Texas Public Radio.