As previously covered by Local Profile, Texas school districts are going through a desperate staff shortage days away from the beginning of the school year. The Texas House Committee is looking for solutions to help districts deal with vacant positions. Last Monday, they had a hearing for testimonies regarding the impact of recent laws on school districts.
One of the possible solutions offered during the hearing was the rehiring of retired teachers. Senate Bill 202 passed last year requires districts to cover pension and healthcare surcharges instead of the retirees themselves. “I do think it was designed to benefit retirees,” Amy Campbell, director of human resource services for the Texas Association of School Boards, told KHOU 11. “Meaning they would get to keep more of that money they make for returning to the classroom.”
Yet it looks like the signed law backfired, making retired teachers unaffordable for some districts.
“I wrongfully assumed that, because they have such a great need for teachers, it wouldn’t be difficult," said 65-year-old Lucy Moreno to KHOU 11. This unintended effect of the bill is more evident now that inflation has dwindled the benefits that would have come with it.
Kyle Lynch, Seminole ISD’s superintendent, also testified on Monday in front of the Texas House’s Public Education Committee. As reported by KXAN, he explained that House Bill 3, which pumped over $11 billion to the public education system, is falling short three years later. “It guaranteed a minimum 3% gain for almost all school districts,” said Lynch “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 is not just that teachers are not getting compensated for their hard work. “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,” continued Lynch. This is also coming at the same time that federal funds aimed at helping with the effects of the pandemic are expiring.
What's more, working conditions and workload were impacted by HB 3. “It mandates additional contact time, for students who struggled during the pandemic,” explained Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
But beyond the reimaginings that school districts devise to face the shortage, Wiggins said the most meaningful response would be raising teacher pay. According to him, “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.”