A new report by the Texas American Federation of Teachers union and the nonprofit think tank Every Texan shows a “lost decade” in teacher pay.
Between the 2009-10 school year and 2020-21 school year, average teacher wages declined by four percent, according to the new report that reviews Texas Academic Performance Reports and Bureau of Labor Statistics data adjusted for inflation.
On-campus administrative employees like principals also saw their salaries decline by an average of 4% within the same period.
The average decline in teacher salaries was more severe in certain school districts like North East ISD (-14%), Houston ISD (-13%), and Corpus Christi ISD (-11%).
The report shows a significant before and after effect on teacher pay due to the pandemic.
Between 2009 and 2020, teacher pay was “virtually stagnant.” When expanded to 2021, real teacher wages since 2009 declined by 4%.
“This significant drop in percent change for most employee salaries when comparing 2009-2010 to 2020-2021 (as opposed to 2019-2020) seems to be the result of both the relatively rapid change in the consumer price index from 2020 to 2021 and the general budgetary effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on the 2020-2021 school year,” the report read.
“The percentage drops in salaries may not look significant on paper, but they add up quickly when you compare them with other aspects of the economy,” the report continued, citing increases in rent and mortgage payments.
Outside of teacher pay, salaries for other school employees like support staff (nurses, librarians) have increased by only about 2 percent, and the base pay for many auxiliary staff (bus drives, food service workers) and paraprofessional staff (interpreters, education aides) remains so low that certain paid positions hover close to federal poverty thresholds.
“For example, an average Texas school cafeteria worker makes $24,497,” the report reads. “If that employee were a single parent and/or a caretaker of other family members in their household, they may well be at or below the federal poverty guidelines for a family of three ($21,960) or four ($26,500).”
This is especially a problem in major cities like Austin, where the cost of living is much higher than the national average.
To explain why teacher and school-related staff wages remain stagnant or in steady decline, the report looks to House Bill 3, a sweeping 2019 school finance property tax bill.
“HB 3 does not require the Legislature to increase the basic allotment each year,” the report reads. “However, it does require the Legislature to reduce property tax rates each year. This forces the state to take on more of the responsibility of funding schools without an alternative revenue source to make up the lost property tax revenue.”
“In 2019, the Legislature set the basic allotment at $6,160 per student for the 2020 and 2021 school years,” the report says. “When they returned in 2021, the Legislature chose to keep the basic allotment at the same rate for the next two years — essentially denying school districts the funding that would have triggered pay raises for teachers and other school personnel.”
The new report comes amid an educator shortage in Texas that has seen the governor create a task force. Educators have said that shortage stems from low pay that was a problem before the pandemic.
The latest National Education Association report on teacher salaries shows public school teachers in Texas earned an average salary of $57,090 in 2019-20, ranking 27th in the country for teacher pay and $7,043 less than the national average.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org