AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the legislative session ending soon, there is a lot of attention on school funding.
Heading into the session, school districts had high hopes that lawmakers would increase the basic allotment, helping students and teachers in districts across the state, but now many who have pushed for more funding are upset.
”The state is woefully underfunding our public schools,” said Ovidia Molina, Texas State Teachers Association President. ”We had hopes that with a $33 billion budget surplus, that something would be done to keep our educators in the profession.”
Many districts have made moves to increase salaries as inflation and cost of living have increased around Central Texas.
Earlier this month Austin ISD increased salaries by 7% after struggling to keep teachers in the district.
Leander ISD is also looking to increase salaries, but the district will wait to see what happens in the legislature.
”You obviously want to take care of your employees that is your top priority,” said Pete Pape, Chief Financial Officer for Leander ISD.
Pape said a district’s compensation plan can impact teacher retention and attract more teachers to a district.
”If one district does something really high, then that affects how we have to compete,” said Pape.
Increasing salaries can impact other areas of a district’s budget though, and it could mean cuts to programs.
”A lot of districts are trying to say ok, if this is going to be our focus then there is only ‘X’ number of dollars, so what has to give,” Pape said. “ So, is that try to be more efficient in other areas, is it some areas we have less positions, is that an administrative assistant? And the last thing you want to do is affect programs for students.”
Pape said whatever happens in the session will impact how they decide which compensation plan to go with in Leander ISD.
”So, we are really forcing local communities, local school districts to make impossible decisions,” said Representative James Talarico.
Talarico has been pushing for teacher raises and more funding in public schools. He had hopes House Bill 100 would help some, before the Senate lumped in a school voucher program.
“I am disappointed that the Texas Senate is holding our House teacher raise bill hostage in order to pass their private school voucher scam,” said Talarico.