AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several laws passed by Texas lawmakers in recent years intended to improve students’ education may now be contributing to the teacher shortage.
On Monday, the Texas House’s Public Education Committee heard testimony regarding the effects of recent laws impacting schools across the state.
House Bill 3, for example, pumped more than $11 billion into the public education system.
That, in part, included raises for teachers. But now, three years later, the benefits of those raises are dwindling.
“It guaranteed a minimum 3% gain for almost all school districts. However, as you know, the rate of inflation has far surpassed that 3% rising cost of living, which has eaten up the teacher salary increase approved just three years ago. And schools really are struggling to keep up, especially when it comes to retaining quality teachers during this devastating teacher shortage,” Kyle Lynch, Seminole ISD’s superintendent, testified Monday.
“Not only will our districts not receive additional money to keep up with inflation, we’re actually going to see a cut about $1,300 per student in my district. And of course, we’re facing this cut at the same time that the federal funds designed to help cope with the effects of the pandemic will also expire,” Lynch added.
He’s asking lawmakers to consider increasing the basic allotment.
“Increasing the basic allotment will help schools deal with the ever-increasing cost of inflation. House Bill 3, if you’ll remember, it ensures that at least 30% of any increase goes to teacher salaries,” Lynch said.
A survey of 400 resigned teachers by the Association of Texas Professional Educators found in addition to compensation, another major contributor to those leaving the field is workload.
Some of that work is unintentionally trickling down from those new laws.
“The other thing that’s really got teachers leaving the profession are the additional regulations and burdens that we’re all putting them on,” Lynch said.
That includes another portion of HB 3, sending early elementary school teachers for extra reading training.
“What we’ve seen is that the reading academies have taken much more time and effort to complete than I think anybody realized,” Mark Wiggins with ATPE explained.
House Bill 4545, passed during last year’s session, is also contributing to the workload.
“It mandates additional contact time for students who struggled during the pandemic,” Wiggins said.
School districts are asking lawmakers to consider reimaging the school day, working these extra tasks into the teacher’s regular 8-hour workday.
They’re also asking for incentives beyond compensation, including daycare and retirement benefits.
In the short term, some are calling on the state to waive the surcharge districts have to pay to bring retired staffers back to school.
“To allow, in some way, retired folks to come back, whether they be retired teachers, retired administrators, retired counselors, retired custodians and Child Nutrition workers, we can use all those folks right now,” Dr. Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD, said during Monday’s hearing.
Wiggins said the most meaningful and immediate lever the legislature has is raising teacher pay.
“The compensation has to reflect the professionalism of the job and the years of training that we require of teachers, they’re highly trained professionals, and they need to be paid like that,” he said.
The next legislative session begins in January next year.