Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says in a campaign video posted in advance of the March primary that he’s championed a big bump in teacher pay.
The Houston Republican, who seeks a second term as lieutenant governor, says: “Last year, I proposed directing more of the education budget to teacher salaries, a move that would have resulted in an average $10,000 raise for teachers.”
That’d be quite the bump; the state’s 2017-18 salary schedule for teachers runs from $28,080 for starting teachers to $45,510 for a teacher with 20 years of experience.
We checked whether Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, offered the described proposal, ultimately finding that he talked up a desire to tell local school districts to spend money differently but didn’t make a proposal affecting state spending overseen by lawmakers. Also, Patrick’s district-specific mandate didn’t make it into a legislative proposal.
Patrick made a 34-minute presentation to reporters in July 2017 about legislation he expected the Republican-controlled Senate to advance during a 30-day special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, who’d said the month before that he’d seek action to raise teacher salaries by $1,000 each, an idea that didn’t pass into law.
Patrick called for lawmakers to direct school districts to shift more budgeted funds to teacher salaries.
“I want the school districts, one of my goals, and it needs to be the goal of the Legislature to direct this,” to “increase the amount of money they’re spending by 5 percent over the next four years on teachers,” Patrick said. That move, he said, would drive up the state’s average teacher salary from more than $51,000 to $60,000.
“Many teachers will make much more, some will make less,” Patrick said. “But they all would get about an $8,000 increase if we just take 5 percent of the money that schools are getting. Remember, there’s a lot of room here, there’s a lot of room here. The dollars are in the system.”
Patrick continued: “Now some will say, well, that’s an unfunded mandate. That’s not true. That’s not what the governor is talking about. That’s not what I’m talking about. We’re simply saying prioritize the money for the teachers. If we’re going to have a great education system, we have to attract more teachers to the system, the best and brightest.”
In response to a question that day, Patrick said it would be up to districts to decide which budgeted dollars to shift to teacher pay. Patrick also said his plan would be offered as legislation by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
Nelson, legislative records show, subsequently carried Senate Bill 19 through the Senate. A revised version of the proposal later died in the House.
Yet it looks to us like Patrick’s pay-raise directive didn’t make it into SB 19.
Nelson’s office didn’t respond to our inquiries about that. But in her initial filed version of the proposal, introduced July 20, the “Classroom Teacher Salary Increases” section called only for each district to increase teacher salaries by spending $1,000 more per teacher from available funds in a manner determined by the local school board. That amount aligned with Abbott’s expressed desire.
Two days later, the Nelson-led panel advanced SB 19 to the Senate after representatives of teacher groups testified that they couldn’t fully support the plan because the envisioned raises weren’t accompanied by more state aid.
Nelson reportedly told teacher groups in response: “It’s this or nothing.”
In the end, records show, the $1,000 raise language was no longer in SB 19 when the Senate advanced it to the House, though the revised legislation kept alive language stating that subject to available funding, the Texas Education Agency shall provide annual bonuses to classroom teachers based on years of experience, which Patrick also had offered as an idea in his presentation. A later version of SB 19, as amended and advanced by a House panel, had no provisions for raises or bonuses.
According to news reports, the initial bonuses were to be funded by lawmakers delaying Medicaid managed-care payments for two years though Patrick favored sending voters a proposed constitutional amendment to allocate money for the bonuses from state lottery revenues.
Tom Canby of the Texas Association of School Business Officials, among advocates for school employees responding to our inquiry about Patrick’s claim, said of SB 19: “A bonus is not a pay raise.” Canby noted too that the legislation’s specified bonus amounts — $600 or $1,000, based on years of experience — fell short of Patrick’s envisioned $10,000.
Lonnie Hollingsworth Jr. of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association offered us his calculation indicating that if districts had been required to set aside 5 percent of operating expenditures in the 2016-17 school year to boost teacher salaries, the resulting raises would average $6,708. “Theoretically, it would be possible to increase teacher salaries by requiring districts to reallocate existing funding,” Hollingsworth said, “but we have never seen a mechanism that would accomplish this. Our preferred approach is for increased state funding with a requirement for a commensurate increase in teacher salaries.”
Patrick said: “Last year, I proposed directing more of the education budget to teacher salaries, a move that would have resulted in an average $10,000 raise for teachers.”
Patrick made no proposal to direct more of the state’s education budget to teacher salaries. Rather, he told reporters that lawmakers should tell school districts to set aside more money for such salaries by reducing other expenditures. That idea, which Patrick said would boost the average salary by $8,000, never got written into a legislative proposal.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Statement: “Last year, I proposed directing more of the education budget to teacher salaries, a move that would have resulted in an average $10,000 raise for teachers.”