Gov. Abbott: Texas is looking for ways to pay teachers more

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NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the state is trying to find solutions that will result in competitive teacher salaries and an improved school finance system. 

“I know how hard it is,” Abbott said. “I know how much you have to prepare, how you have to go to school, the challenges you have at school, only to go home to have to grade papers, create a lesson plan, deal with your own family and start all over again. It’s a tough task and an underpaid job.”

Abbott covered school finance, teacher pay, school safety and more during a roundtable Monday with educators and administrators of Comal ISD, alongside State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredricksburg and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. It’s one of two education roundtables he has planned for this week.

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks with teachers and adminsitrators at an education roundtable meeting at Church Hill Middle School in New Braunfels on Aug. 20, 2018. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath looks on. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“We want to structure the compensation plan that would be the very best educators on the pathway to earning a six-figure salary,” Abbott said. “That will reward good educators but, in addition to it, it will attract other people into the profession who will create a legacy of good educators.”
 
Brittney Lanehart, a special education team leader and the head boys and girls track and cross-country coach at Smithson Valley High School, said the roundtable generated productive discussion on educators’ top concerns.

“I play a lot of roles and so do a lot of people in our district,” she said. “We had a lot of discussion today about what can we do to ensure we’re recruiting the brightest and the best to be teachers and then keeping teachers in the classroom. Sometimes our only opportunity to move up in the profession is moving into administration and we want to see if we can establish a system that allows master teachers to stay master teachers.”

Though most of the meeting was private, Abbott told reporters immediately after the roundtable that state education leaders are using this feedback to develop specific strategies that will enhance teacher salaries. 

“Teacher pay is a whole lot easier said than done, which is why we wanted to talk about it today,” he said.

Abbott plans to explore the possibility of finding additional state dollars without increasing taxes for teacher pay and working with school administrators to develop incentives for educators. 

“As opposed to a state-mandated one-size-fits-all approach, [it would] allow flexibility with each school district,” he said. 

Mountain Valley Middle School eighth-grade math teacher James Patton and his wife are both teachers. Patton said he hopes any ideas lawmakers develop to incentivize teachers encourage collaboration.

“We don’t want to put something in that would be divisive to ruining that teamwork and camaraderie that we have,” he said. 

Patton said he had to give up coaching baseball at his old school because his family income was not enough to cover costs for raising his family.

“Hopefully the legislature can work towards putting incentives in place that will reward good teachers and perhaps even increase starting salary to recruit more of the top people from college [to become teachers],” he said.

In addition to Monday’s meeting in New Braunfels, Abbott’s office announced a similar meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, at Solar Preparatory School for Girls in Dallas.

Gov. Greg Abbott greets Comal ISD middle school math teacher James Patton at an education roundtable meeting in New Braunfels on Aug. 20, 2018. Teachers Gabriela Torres (center) and Brittney Lanehart (red jacket) look on. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

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