AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law teacher raises and a sweeping overhaul of how the state pays to educate more than 5 million students in public schools.
- School finance reform bill became law Tuesday
- Veteran teachers getting bulk of pay raises
State lawmakers promised that to most of them when they passed a sweeping school finance reform bill in the final days of the legislative session. Abbott on Tuesday called it a “monumental moment” while signing the bill at an Austin elementary school.
It comes near the end of an often rocky decade for Texas schools, which had absorbed steep budget cuts and saw the state's school finance system declared flawed but constitutional in 2016.
However, the pay raise portion of the plan is pitting veteran teachers against newer ones.
Cindy Maroquio has been a classroom teacher for nearly 30 years. Like most teachers, she has bought a lot of classroom essentials with her own money, even when she was struggling to make ends meet. During her decades-long career, she's had to pick up extra jobs.
"I did a variety of things, one of them was like the wine demonstrations at the grocery store. You know, tutoring on the side, childcare," said Maroquio.
She's eager to see her salary increase so she never has to subsidize it again.
"It's good to hear that we are going to be paying people for the work that they're doing, but it also feels like a slap in the face whenever they started this session with a $5,000 raise," said Maroquio.
Instead, lawmakers settled on a lower number and giving districts more discretion on how to divvy out the dollars. On average, veteran teachers, librarians and counselors with at least five years of experience could see a $4,000 annual raise, including benefits. But for new teachers, a salary increase isn't guaranteed.
"Doesn't matter if you've been teaching two years, five years or 10 years. We all have the exact same problems," said Natasha Williams.
Williams has three years in the classroom under her belt. She, too, was hoping to bring home an extra $5,000 a year. Instead, in order to see a pay bump, she'll have to work during the summer or teach at a more challenging campus.
"We deserve it. We go to work and we put our pants on one leg at a time, and we do the work, the improvement plans, the board meetings, the extra supplies. I mean, we do it all," said Williams.
But it won't deter her from a career in the classroom.
"This is what I wanted to do since I was nine years old," said Williams.
It’s a positive sign veteran teacher Maroquio hopes encourages new teachers to stick it out.
"Hopefully that incentive to stay in there for more compensation will keep more teachers wanting to stay in the profession," said Maroquio.
Gov. Abbott is set to the sign the school finance reform bill into law Tuesday morning at an Austin elementary school. Along with teacher pay raises, the measure aims to lower property taxes and reduce recapture payments, money taken from wealthy school districts to poorer ones. Click the video link above to watch our interview with Mark Wiggins of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.