The Senate Finance Committee passed Senate Bill 3, the $5,000 teacher pay raise legislation, out of committee on Monday on a unanimous vote. The bill included a TCTA amendment, submitted by Sen. Kirk Watson, to clarify that the raise is ongoing in future years.

TCTA general counsel Lonnie Hollingsworth testified in support of the bill and thanked Committee Chair Jane Nelson, the bill sponsor, for the proposal to increase all teacher salaries by $5,000. TCTA’s testimony recommends that counselors, librarians and nurses be included in the required raise, and that additional funding be provided to districts for salary increases for other key employees such as teacher aides.

There has been confusion over a section of the bill that appears to make the raise temporary, but Nelson has maintained that she intends for the $5,000 increase to be a permanent raise. TCTA suggested clarifying language — used in previous sessions when teachers received a pass-through increase — and Watson quickly moved to include the amendment in the bill.

Members of the committee appeared strongly united in their support of the bill, and some had strong words for witnesses — including at least one association representing school districts — that did not support the bill because they prefer more local discretion on how to provide pay raises. TCTA's written testimony (see link above) includes a chart that demonstrates that teacher salaries have not kept up proportionately with increases in state funding for education, so leaving the issue up to local discretion is problematic. Sen. Larry Taylor also noted that in a period when teacher salaries rose 11.6 percent, average superintendent pay went up 30 percent.

All members of the Senate Finance Committee have signed on as SB 3 co-authors, as have all but three senators (as of this writing). Meanwhile, on the House side, the unveiling of House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty's school finance plan is expected next week. Thus far, the House leadership has indicated a preference for merit-based pay proposals and local control instead of an across-the-board pay increase. We should have information next week on how or if the House plans to recommend pay raises.

TCTA will continue our efforts to ensure that more employees are provided with the much-needed and much-deserved pay raise.