Teachers’ Rights Bill passes, moves to House
Texas senators passed a $1.6 billion education bill that would provide pay raises for teachers and support for better working conditions. Senate Bill 9 includes explicit recommendations from the Teacher Vacancy Task Force that Gov. Greg Abbott put together to address teacher retention and recruitment. And although the bill is divisive among educators, it has become known as the Teachers’ Bill of Rights.
SB 9 focuses on the following:
- Childcare for teachers — free prekindergarten for children of classroom teachers if the district offers the program
- Teacher pay — a one-time $2,000 pay increase to all teachers; and an additional one-time $4,000 increase for teachers in districts with less than 20,000 students
- Performance-based bonuses — increased funding for the Teacher Incentive Allotment
- Rehiring retired teachers — a grant program to reimburse school districts that employ retired teachers
- Teacher apprenticeship — programs encouraging high school students or other community members to become teachers
- Teacher time studies — examining district, teacher and student schedules to inform staffing and scheduling policies
The upper chamber passed the bill in a 22-9 vote, and the foremost author was Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa was the only Democratic senator to joint-author SB9.
Criticism for the bill comes from the belief that the state should provide a higher salary adjustment because Texas is already below the national average in teacher pay by about $7,500. But Hinojosa said it is at least a step in the right direction.
“While I know that [teachers] deserve and need much more, my vote today is not to show my satisfaction with the proposed compensation, but rather a commitment to continue advocating for more funding and to show my support for the additional benefits this bill provides,” the senator said in his statement. “I will continue working with my legislative colleagues to fight for additional compensation and to get this bill to the governor’s desk.”
Sen. Morgan LaMantia (D-South Padre Island) offered an amendment to increase the compensation to $10,000, which all Senate democrats voted in favor of. But it did not pass because every Republican senator voted against it. The bill would have cost $5 billion more with the amendment.
State Comptroller Glen Hegar has said this is a once-in-a-lifetime legislative session for budgeting and priorities that the legislature might want to fund because the state will have $188.2 billion in general revenue. But despite a record-breaking $32.7 billion surplus for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, Creighton argued that the state legislators could not allocate the extra $5 billion for the education bill.
“As we all work on issues related to the grid and the border…and health care and all these issues that are so important to us,” the GOP senator said during the floor debate, “there is a rhyme and reason to how much we spend in each category.”
The time study in Senate Bill 9 is one of the direct recommendations the Teacher Vacancy Task Force provided when they released their final report in February of this year. The task force, which consisted of statewide educators at all levels, found that the number one reason teachers left the field was their working conditions, specifically the unsustainable workloads.
The TVTF provided recommendations to improve working conditions focused on respecting and valuing teacher time.
The report reads:
“To fully understand all that is required of teachers, the legislature should fund a time study to examine all duties of a teacher with the intended outcome to better streamline teacher tasks. The TVTF recommends that technical assistance be provided to school systems to ensure time studies are conducted in a way that do not add to the already overburdened teacher and are helpful for school administrators to understand and use the results to make immediate and longer-term changes at the local level.
“Ensuring that the time study results are utilized to adjust schedules and duties so that the job requirements imposed on teachers can be reasonably accomplished in a normal 40-hour work week is essential. Additionally, the TEA should make findings and best practices from the time studies publicly available to inform statewide policies and programs.”
Melina Recio, a McAllen ISD teacher of 11 years, was the only classroom teacher representing Hidalgo County on the task force. She said the TVTF looked at different calendar options and practices across the state for how teachers maximize their time to complete their work in the classroom without having to take it home.
“Just because we’ve always done school in a certain way doesn’t mean that we always have to do school in that same way, especially if it’s not working for the workforce and for kids and communities,” Recio said. “So shifting how school schedules operate is a little more bold, if you will. I think it would take a lot of change and a lot of support and a lot of funding but it’s definitely still an option about how to address the vacancy crisis.”
Senate Bill 9 now makes its way to the Texas House of Representatives, where it awaits the next step in the legislative process. The House and the Senate chambers must agree on any changes they make to the bill before Abbott can sign it into law.
May 29 is the last day of the legislative session; June 18 is the last day the governor can sign or veto bills.