With the start of the special legislation session less than a week away, Morning Edition is looking at issues on the agenda. Today, we answer a listener question about a proposed $1,000 pay increase for teachers: Who is pushing for the increase and where is it coming from?
Senior Editor Ben Philpott: Generally, you could argue that teachers have been wanting a pay raise and have been pushing for pay raises in general throughout different legislative sessions. But this one really, kind of, came out of left field, you could say. This was something that was not a topic during the regular legislative session but when Gov. Abbott made his extensive list of items for a special session he threw in – I want school districts to give teachers a $1,000 across-the-board teacher pay raise.
Host Jennifer Stayton: Well, how likely is this, then, to pass, do you think?
Philpott: You know, despite the fact that, of course, teachers unions, again, would say, "Yes, we all need pay raises." Their reaction has been, "This is an unfunded mandate." … [The governor] said very specifically, "We can do this without any additional spending. That means cutting from somewhere within the budget. Maybe it means cutting within an education budget. Maybe it means cutting from another part of the massive Texas state budget. But this is something that he's proposed that a lot of people, you know, sounds great, but teachers groups and teachers unions have said, "But wait a minute. How are we paying for it?"
Stayton: Well, of course, all of this is happening within the bigger picture context of school finance in general. So how would this fit in to [the] bigger picture of school finance?
Philpott: I think the Texas House answer would be: Look, we had a school finance bill that was going to add an extra $1.5 billion or so to public education. That certainly could have been money that could have filtered down into teacher pay raises. But school finance is not on the call, so I don't know that it plays in with that at all. In terms of vouchers, there is a voucher bill in the call of looking at a small voucher program for children with disabilities, but there's not money for teacher pay raise through that, either. So this is one of those items that, you know, a lot of people say they support that the governor's thrown out there, but it doesn't really tie in with any of the other things that the Legislature has been talking about.