Education Policy

Raising the Bar: Fair Compensation for Teachers and Support Staff in Education Bridging the Pay Gap for a Stronger and More Equitable Texas Education System

By: Steven Santoyo, Ed.M

Picture a Texas where our K-12 education system proudly ranks as the best in the nation. Can you visualize it? What would that world look like? How would we compensate our teachers? How would we invest in the preparation of educators? These questions have never been more critical, as the nationwide teacher shortage crisis casts a long shadow over our education system. According to The Charles Butt Foundation, a reputable non-profit which meticulously studies public education trends in our state, a staggering 77% of Texas teachers contemplated leaving the profession in 2022. Their reasons include soaring stress levels, a prevailing sense of being undervalued, overwhelming workloads, bureaucratic hassles, and the harsh reality of inadequate pay and benefits.. It’s abundantly clear that the key to achieving educational excellence in Texas lies in adequately addressing these issues.

As someone who has walked in the shoes of a teacher and is currently pursuing an education policy degree at The LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas, I firmly believe that we hold the solution. The teacher shortage crisis compels us to rethink our approach, focusing on two critical facets: increasing teacher pay and increasing the pay for support staff members of a school, the glue that keeps the school running. 

The call for boosting teacher pay stems from the simple fact that many educators find it financially challenging to keep up with the demands of their profession. One practical step forward is for school districts to allocate more funding from their operating budgets to meet the basic needs of teachers, such as providing essential school supplies. During my tenure as a teacher at two public schools, I personally raised over $2,000 to ensure my students had the necessary supplies for hybrid learning. However, it’s disheartening to recall that I still had to dip into my own pocket to cover various expenses. In stark contrast, my experience at another school was different. I entered a classroom replete with new desks, chairs, cutting-edge technology, and parents willing to purchase class sets of literary classics. What truly stood out was having access to a departmental credit line at Office Max, allowing me to provide my Honors English students with whatever they needed. Despite these advantages, I, like many educators, still incurred personal expenses to create the best possible learning environment. Looking back, it’s clear that this burden was avoidable (Source 2).

Too often, teachers are asked to shoulder additional responsibilities without commensurate compensation. During my early years as a teacher, I willingly accepted requests to cover other teachers’ classes during their illnesses, provide counseling to students on my own time, monitor hallways during my planning periods, and even conduct bag inspections in the aftermath of a potential security threat. However, my take-home pay remained the same as that of other English teachers in schools with better-staffed and better-paid faculties. This disparity is unjustifiable, and it doesn’t have to be this way. If we paid office clerks, hall monitors, and maintenance workers a competitive salary, more would be willing and able to apply to these jobs that often go unstaffed at public schools across our state. By paying them what they deserve, I would have felt less like a teacher doing more roles than I should have been doing. School district leaders across Texas must proactively seek out cost-effective strategies to immediately relieve these unwarranted burdens on teachers. By cracking the code on managing operating budgets and directing funds strategically, we can alleviate the financial strain on educators and transform our schools into the nurturing learning environments we all aspire for them to be.

In our pursuit of a Texas education system that stands at the pinnacle nationally, the path to success becomes evident: an unwavering commitment to bolstering teacher pay and revitalizing how we choose to look at the totality of our payroll systems. The urgency of addressing the teacher shortage crisis cannot be overstated. It is imperative that schools prioritize equitable compensation and alleviate the unnecessary financial burdens placed upon teachers, thereby allowing them to wholeheartedly focus on delivering exceptional education. Investments and money reallocations can send a loud message while still not deviating from business plans and financial projections that often control preexisting narratives. If we really sit in this, and choose to see problems from new perspectives, we can truly have a hand in shaping a new generation of educators who are not only better equipped but also deeply connected to their communities. In our quest to elevate Texas’s educational system to its highest potential, we must absorb all available knowledge on school finance, as it is undeniably the linchpin of our mission: forging a brighter, bolder, and better future for generations to come.

Steven Santoyo is currently a Master of Public Affairs Candidate studying K-12 education policy and school finance at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. He is the recipient of The LBJ School’s George Christian Fellowship Endowment and Prince Fellowship for graduate student learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Widgets powered by