Lawmaker wants $4,000 raise for Texas public school teachers

A state lawmaker is pushing for public school teachers to get a raise. State Senator Jose Menendez says Texas teachers don't earn what teachers in other states do and it's unacceptable.

SB 1303 would give full time public school teachers a $4,000 raise and cost the state $3 billion. Under the proposed legislation the state would pick up the tab for the raises instead of school districts.

"The national average for teachers is $56,610 and the average in Texas is $49,000 which is a difference of almost $7,000," said Menendez.

Educators from across the state joined Menendez as he laid out his bill before the Senate Education Committee.

Menendez says the state is losing teachers because of the pay. According to a survey by the Texas Association of School Boards for 2012-2013 Texas schools lost more than 10,000 teachers since the previous school year. The Democrat from San Antonio believes the increase will provide hiring incentives that many districts need.

"We have the money. The Senate budget has $4.6 billion in tax cuts and the House has $4.9 billion in tax cuts. This bill would cost $3 billion. It's not hard to do the math and we owe it to those men and women who are trying to get our students to understand math," said Menendez.

Austin ISD School Board President Gina Hinajosa supports the bill. She says it is a challenge for the board to offer competitive salaries as the cost of living in Austin continues to rise.

"Currently Austin has the lowest paid teachers of any urban teachers in the state and the lowest paid teachers in surrounding districts. We struggle to keep them because they know they can go to another district that pays more," said Hinajosa.

"I think the one thing many Texans can agree on is Texas is not average and not below average but that's what we see in teacher pay," said Ken Zarifias with Education Austin.

Menendez expects push back but says he'll keep fighting.

"I can understand the frustration about the money but I think people want us to be good fiscal stewards and I think this is an investment in the future," said Menendez.

SB 1303 is scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Education Committee Thursday evening.

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