Texas House speaker prioritizes teacher mentorships over pay raises

Texas teachers have made it clear they want lawmakers to grant them a raise this legislative session.

But House Speaker Dade Phelan has instead prioritized teacher mentorships.

While Phelan’s announcement about his priorities could spell the end of sizable raises for teachers in the House, one political scientist believes it may now be the Senate that tackles that issue while the House addresses other ways solve the teacher shortage. 

Thursday afternoon, House Bill 11, which is to address the teacher shortage in Texas, was referred to the Public Education Committee.

"This follows through on work done by a task force of teachers who studied what could help retain teachers in Texas. One of the issues Texas has faced is a lot of teachers who go into the profession don't stay long," said SMU Political Scientist Matthew Wilson.


Texas teachers need raises, training and better working conditions to fix shortages, state task force finds

The yearlong review also recommends increasing the funds schools get per student, a measure already favored by lawmakers looking how to spend a historic state budget surplus.

To solve the exodus of teachers, the bill looks to provide funding for teacher mentorship programs and free Pre-K for children of teachers. 

"People immediately jump to pay, and pay is part of it, particularly in a competitive job market. And raising minimum teacher pay will be part of it. But it is more than just pay," Wilson said. "Teaching is not an easy thing to do. Classroom management is a real challenge."

As a legislative priority, Wilson says the way is now paved for the mentorship bill's success while a separate bill focused on large raises has more of a roadblock. 

House Bill 1548 called for across-the-board $15,000 raises for teachers and 25% raises for support staff. 

"It is a red flag for that. This would raise minimums, but not across the board," Wilson said. "If I was a public-school teacher, I would say this is all well in good, but don't lose sight of raises across the board."

The bill would look to raise the state's minimum salary for a teacher, which is now $34,000.

"A lot of urban areas pay a lot more than that," Wilson said. "But some small rural districts are still bringing teachers in at that minimum. It will have the biggest impact on rural districts."

Phelan steered clear of some of the governor's education priorities like school choice voucher initiatives. 

Wilson says that too may be tackled by the Senate, which lately has tended to have more of an appetite for the contentious issues.