Planning to talk to your legislators about the salary schedule bill? In an effort to provide you with more information, here are some comments we’ve been hearing from proponents of the bill, followed by our responses.

Please note that the following information is based on SB 893 as it passed out of the Senate; its companion in the House, HB 2543, is still a work in progress and has not yet been voted out of committee. If this proposal is set for House floor action, TCTA will issue an action alert to our members.

Salaries

The bill would eliminate the state minimum salary schedule for teachers (though not for nurses, counselors and librarians) and replace it with a single minimum salary of $27,540.

The state minimum salary schedule is only used in fewer than 20 school districts.

Response: It is then particularly critical to the teachers in those districts. It is also symbolically important to teachers throughout the state, as it suggests that teachers are professionals whose experience is worth rewarding. In addition, it is a vehicle through which the legislature can, and has in the past, directed school funding to the classroom.

The bill does not require that teacher salaries be reduced.

Response:  No, but it doesn’t prohibit it, either. The new state minimum for all teachers, regardless of experience, would be $27,540. There is no “safety net” language in the bill that prohibits the reduction of any current teacher’s salary either below the current level or below the current minimum according to the existing salary schedule. Under current law, districts can reduce salaries (subject to legal deadlines), but only a beginning teacher can currently be paid as little as $27,540.

This proposal is intended to allow districts to differentiate pay, so that teachers in shortage subject areas or hard-to-staff schools, for example, can be paid more.

Response: Schools can already do this, and most do. Nothing about the salary schedule keeps districts from paying more based on locally established criteria. The only practical effect of eliminating the salary schedule is to allow districts to pay less than the current minimum levels.

The teacher salary schedule is outdated and no longer needed. 

Response: Then where’s the harm in leaving it in place, especially in those districts where it does serve as a floor for salaries?  Teacher benefits are very low in Texas compared to other states; this is a move in the wrong direction and is demoralizing at best.

Appraisals

The bill requires the commissioner to develop a teacher appraisal system including certain criteria. A district can develop a local system, but it must include the same components as the commissioner’s system. Those required components include the “academic performance of the teacher’s students” including measures of student growth based on academics which “may not be limited to examining the performance of the teacher’s students on assessment instruments…but must include other measures of student educational growth.” The bill also eliminates current law that allows less-than-annual appraisals for proficient teachers.

This bill doesn’t base required annual teacher appraisals on STAAR results.

Response: The bill requires appraisal criteria to include the academic performance of a teacher’s students, using measures of student educational growth which may not be limited to STAAR but must include other growth measures. Use of STAAR is not prohibited (and is essentially assumed, by referring to the inclusion of “other” growth measures), and student test scores are likely to be used.

This bill will require annual appraisals of all teachers.

Response: It does, and that would be a mistake. We are not aware that many (or any) districts are using current law to appraise teachers only once every five years. Most teachers we talk to receive at least informal observations and feedback every year. The bill will eliminate the ability of administrators to focus appraisal time on new or struggling teachers and let proficient veterans be appraised less formally and/or less often, if desired.

Professional development

The bill provides opportunities for teachers to self-select a portion of their professional development and give feedback to SBEC regarding professional development courses.

This bill allows teachers to customize their professional development.

Response: True, and that’s something we’ve sought for years. But that one element does not justify the other damage done by this bill. And it’s noteworthy that there is no allocation to school districts to pay for this teacher-selected training, so you may well be on your own time and your own money for getting that professional development that hasn’t been specifically approved or provided by your district.