Texas state teacher pay is an interesting topic. In a previous column (Salary for Teachers vs. Average Pay for High School Coaches), I noted how high school football coaches earn a far greater salary than most teachers in Texas. The Statesman.com also reported on more state teacher salary comparisons; this time between the teachers themselves. According to the article, the salary for teachers at poor schools (with minority students) is less than the salary for teachers at wealthier schools.
The Texas teacher salary gap is reportedly wider in Austin than in most other large Texas school districts, according to a pair of recent reports based on a teacher salary survey of the state's 10 largest school districts by University of Texas education researcher Ed Fuller. The reports were funded by a Washington-based think-tank Education Trust. Is Austin being unfairly singled out? What's going on with Texas teacher salaries?
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Pay Rate For Teacher
University of Texas education researcher Ed Fuller says the Texas teacher salary gap in Austin exists because less experienced teachers usually work at schools with higher numbers of minority and low-income students. Not surprisingly, Austin school district officials gave low marks to the reports, mainly because the reports do not note that Austin is doing more than many districts in Texas to recruit teachers for low-performing schools. Even if that's the case, it doesn't change the fact that there is a Texas teacher salary gap.
For example, the average annual teacher salary at Casis Elementary School - serving a predominately white area - was reportedly $2,402 more than the average teacher salary at Winn Elementary - which serves a student population that is 97 percent black and Hispanic. Fuller's report also says that a $3,819 salary gap between Summitt Elementary - where less than 35 percent of student body is considered low-income - and Wooten Elementary - 97 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
So that it doesn't look like I am a "holier than thou" resident of Washington State picking on Texas, the same mismatch in pay and experience across schools has been noted in the Seattle school system. The most experienced, most highly educated, and therefore highest paid teachers tend to migrate over time to the academic magnet and wealthier schools.
Texas State Teacher Pay
Education Trust President Kati Haycock told the Statesman.com: "What you're seeing in these numbers is that (federal dollars are) coming on top of a very uneven base." Her organization, Education Trust, is recommending changes to the No Child Left Behind Act, that would ensure local funding would be more evenly distributed among schools. The No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization this year.
Fuller's report also said that although supplemental programs (such as tutoring) can help, but that money spent on teachers is the best way to improve student performance. Fuller told the Statesman.com, "If you look at the East Austin schools, you'll see they just constantly churn teachers year after year. Hopefully with the strategic compensation plan that's being piloted, we'll actually see that those pay and experience gaps reverse."
Texas Teacher Pay Raise?
Indeed, starting in fall of 2007, Austin will provide stipends and support to teachers who agree to work at the district's lower income schools. However, school officials oppose mandating teachers work in poorer neighborhoods because they claim it will cause teachers to flee to other districts which offer higher teacher salaries. In all fairness, Fuller does admit that Austin is unusual because of the wide ranges of income within the district.
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Dr. Al Lee