(AUSTIN) — An exchange between two Texas senators Friday confirmed that the state will not give Texas teachers a pay raise without the passage of House Bill 100, which began as a bill to provide more funding for public education. The Texas Senate has added Education Savings Account (ESA) vouchers to the bill, putting it in jeopardy of not passing at all.
The Texas House passed HB 100 earlier this year to give more money to public schools. However, earlier this week, the Texas Senate added an expansive ESA voucher program to the bill, knowing that there has not been majority support for vouchers in the House this session. Now, with just a couple of days left in the session, members from both chambers are trying to negotiate a final version of HB 100. Many believe the two sides will not be able to reach an agreement and the bill will not pass.
As the Senate debated House Bill 1, the state budget for the next two years, on Friday, Sen. Royce West asked Senate Education Committee Chairman Brandon Creighton whether teachers would get a pay raise from the state if House Bill 100 does not pass.
“If they’re not passed, then teachers will not get a pay raise, correct?” Sen. West asked.
Chairman Creighton responded that HB 100 must pass for the money in the budget for teacher pay raises to come through, but he also noted that the money will be set aside so that teachers could get a raise if the Legislature passes one in a special session.
“The good news for our Texas teachers is that we’ve set this big structural piece aside on their behalf,” Chairman Creighton said. “For our Texas teachers, we’ve made the commitment through the budget, but we have to have the policy (HB 100) as well.”
Texas School Alliance Executive Director HD Chambers said the Senate could have ensured a teacher pay raise by not attaching a controversial ESA voucher plan to House Bill 100. Now that raise is in doubt.
“The reason why teachers may not get a pay raise is because the Senate is unwilling to provide money for one without vouchers,” Chambers said. “As we have said for several days, funding for schools — and for teacher pay raises — has been taken hostage by the Senate. The Senate is trying to pass vouchers at all costs.”
Chambers added, “It is profoundly absurd that during a time of a record surplus, the legislative session could end without a pay raise for teachers and without a significant increase in funding for public education. Public education has not been a priority all session, and we should have never landed in a place where educators are waiting until the final hours to see if there will be funding for raises. With a $33 billion state surplus, the Legislature should have agreed on sizable pay increases for teachers weeks ago, but the will to invest in education just hasn’t been there from the Legislature or from Governor Abbott.”