LOCKHART, Texas - The Lockhart ISD School Board took steps Monday night to keep their school employees by increasing base pay for first-time teachers and pay for teachers and non-teaching staff.
There’s a lot to like about a small town like Lockhart: a busy courthouse square, grand old homes, quiet affordable neighborhoods, and the barbecue which is a big draw here. However, the lifestyle offered in Lockhart, and in similar small school districts, may not be enough to retain solid school employees.
Whitney Abel, who has a child in one of the local schools, understands the lure of a bigger paycheck.
“They go to where they need to get the money and what’s best for them, each person,” said Abel.
The school board approved a big pay hike for the next school year Monday night. The money was made possible by the new education funding plan approved by state lawmakers.
“I think sometimes it’s harder to recruit folks, where maybe they don’t know how close we are to Austin, to San Marcos, to I-35,” Lockhart ISD superintendent Mark Estrada said. “I think once they get here it’s much easier to retain them.”
It starts with the base pay. Last year, a first-year teacher in Lockhart made $47,500. The base pay this fall will be $49,000. Teacher raises will range from 4.3 to eight percent, with the larger amount determined by tenure. Non-teaching staff will get a three percent pay raise.
The increase, according to Estrada, will keep Lockhart close to what other districts in the Austin area are paying.
“Our goal was to always be competitive, we want to be within 95 percent to 105 percent of the market in Central Texas because those are our peers who we are competing against,” Estrada said.
The starting pay in Lockhart, as in other local districts, is well above the new minimum amount set by the state. $33,660 is the bottom line according to TEA for first-time teachers this fall.
There is something missing in this funding equation and that would be accountability, something important to those like Nathaniel Mercado and John Hall who have a personal stake in what happens in the classroom.
“If you have a boring teacher or a bad teacher, you are not going to want to be in class,” said Mercado, who will be a freshman this fall.
Mercardo and Hall are spending the summer working for a friend mowing yards. If they do a bad job, they don’t get paid and both believe that rule should also apply in the classroom.
“Paying more, for me, yeah it will get us a better education, it will get us better teachers, but if the teachers that are already there, that’s already Bumie, they are going to be, oh they are bumping my pay up I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Hall said. “But, what they really should be doing is cracking down on the Bumie teachers, these trash teachers, and start getting them out of these schools.”
On Tuesday night the school board for Pflugerville ISD is expected to vote on a new pay raise plan. Florence ISD will have a budget meeting Wednesday to go over a pay plan. Earlier this month Leander ISD increased teacher base pay to $50,000.