AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas teachers rank around the middle of the pack in terms of teacher pay nationwide, but don't expect to see them on the picket line any time soon.
State law prohibits teachers from going on strike. Penalties include forfeiting their entire retirement package and losing their teaching certification.
"Which is why the marching we are doing and we are focusing on here in the State of Texas is marching our way to the polls," said Noel Candelaria of the Texas State Teachers Association.
A new study by the National Education Association finds Texas teacher wage growth falling behind the national average, at 1.1 percent from 2017 to 2018 compared to 1.4 percent nationally. The NEA study found Texas salaries in 2018 to average $53,167; the national average is $60,483.
"Even when you look at teacher pay, we are ranked pretty close to last when it comes to the benefits and the health insurance for teachers based on what they have to pay out of pocket," Candelaria said.
While most districts cover the full cost of health insurance for educators, Candelaria said teachers are often forced to pay the full cost of premiums for dependents and spouses.
Miguel Briones began his career as an elementary school teacher five years ago. He and his wife bought a house two years ago, but he said they may be forced to move as the inflation of his home expenses is exceeding his wage growth.
"We have reached a real point where, if it keeps going this way, we are not going to be able to even have our home anymore," Briones said. "It was a great dream to have happen and it's scary to think it could end that quickly."
State funding may be to blame for a slump in teacher wage growth. The Legislative Budget Board reported that state dollars covered 48 percent of teacher wages in 2008. Next year, they are expected to cover about 38 percent.