Gov. Greg Abbott (center) signed House Bill 3, an $11.6 million school finance bill, into law at Parmer Lane Elementary School in Austin on June 11. Seated with Abbott are Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (left) and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Courtesy photo
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Teachers and staff in the Burnet and Marble Falls school districts are getting pay raises now that House Bill 3 has been signed into law. The boards of trustees for both districts voted in the pay increases at their meetings June 17. The increases — but not the amounts — were mandated by the state during the 86th legislative session.
The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District board approved a 7 percent midpoint general pay increase for teachers and librarians and a 5 percent midpoint general pay increase for all other staff. As a result, a starting teacher salary for the upcoming school year at BCISD will increase to $48,100 from $44,500. Burnet now exceeds the $1.3 million compensation plan requirement by more than $400,000.
The Marble Falls Independent School District board approved a 4 percent general pay increase for teachers with six or more years and a 3 percent general pay increase for all other employees as well as a $35-per-month increase on district contribution for health care. That means the school district is dedicating approximately $1.4 million, which is also more than the amount required by the new legislation.
First-year teachers will be paid $46,250, said Melissa Lafferty, MFISD’s executive director of finance. Teachers with six or more years of experience will see an annual compensation increase of more than $2,400. The district contribution for health care is $335 per month.
House Bill 3 required a minimum pay increase of between $210,000 and $520,000 total for all teachers, nurses, librarians, and counselors with six or more years of experience and between $90,000 to $120,000 total for all other employees. House Bill 3’s minimum requirements would have meant only a 1 percent raise for all employees.
BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said once school officials began to evaluate the bill and its funding, they realized they’d have more money available for salaries.
“Compensation for our staff is the driver for our budget,” he said. “Once we had an understanding of House Bill 3, we began working on the most competitive compensation we could offer.”
McBurnett called the pay raise “historic.”
“It’s the highest pay raise I can find (in my research),” he said. “It’s our way of showing our staff we appreciate their effort. It’s a challenging job and an important job. We’re helping to get students prepared for the future.”
Because BCISD already has dyslexia programs on every campus as well as full-day prekindergarten, it can allot more of the state funds to teacher salaries. House Bill 3 had financial stipulations that school districts include these programs if they were not already available. Since Burnet doesn’t have to fund new programs, it can pay teachers more, McBurnett explained.
The Burnet board also approved additional staff positions to increase the level of support provided to classroom teachers. Each traditional campus will have an instructional coach, and every campus will have two instructional partners.
McBurnett noted that school districts across the state face the same challenge: hiring from a shrinking pool of candidates due to low salary expectations. HB3 has changed that. The salary BCISD will now pay should make compensation a non-factor in the hiring process, McBurnett said.
“Pay isn’t the only factor, but it’s important,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re market competitive. We’ve been a leader in the Hill Country in terms of total compensation. We know we have to create the best work environment possible.”
House Bill 3, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 11, totaled $11.6 billion with $6.5 billion in new public education spending and $5.1 billion devoted to lowering Texans’ property tax bills.
In addition to mandating teacher pay raises, the bill also:
• increases per-student base funding by about 20 percent;
• funds free full-day prekindergarten for eligible 4-year-olds;
• reduces the amount of money wealthy school districts send to poor districts through the state’s recapture program, known as Robin Hood;
• provides money for districts that want to start merit pay programs with bonuses between $3,000 and $12,000 to the highest-rated teachers;
• and provides money for high-needs and rural school districts that need to encourage teachers to work there.
It also lowers property tax rates by an average of 8 cents per $100 valuation in 2020 and 13 cents in 2021. That equals a tax cut of $200 for the owner of a $250,000 house in 2020 and $325 in 2021.
“You could not overstate the magnitude of the law that I’m about to sign because this is a monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas,” Abbott said at the bill signing. “We did something that was considered to be highly improbable, and that is to be able to transform public education in the state of Texas without a court order forcing us to do so. This one law does more to advance education in the state of Texas than any law that I have seen in my adult lifetime in the state of Texas.”