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Texas House Democrats push for teacher salary bumps and increases to per-student spending

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, unveils the Fully Fund Our Future Act, an education package, on October 19, 2023.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
The Texas Newsroom
Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, unveils the Fully Fund Our Future Act, an education package, at the state Capitol on Thursday.

The Texas House Democratic Caucus unveiled a $40 billion school finance proposal on Thursday that includes teacher salary raises and an increase to the state’s per-pupil spending.

The measure, called the Fully Fund Our Future Act, is unlikely to move forward in the chamber. It was filed to counter legislation presented by the Republican majority that would implement a school voucher-like program.

Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, said the point behind the legislation is showing Texans how far behind the state is when it comes to funding public schools.

“We have this bill today because it is the opposite of a voucher scam — because the voucher scam seems to take money out of the public school system, to defund education that has already been defunded,” Wu told reporters at a press conference Thursday in Austin. “This bill intends to do what we should have done all along, that we should have made education our top priority.”

The Texas Senate passed its version of school vouchers last week. The proposal would grant qualifying students $8,000 to use to pay for private or parochial schooling. Homeschoolers would get $1,000.

Teacher raises

The Democrats' proposal would appropriate $40 billion to accomplish its goals, which include a $15,000 pay raise for all public school teachers.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said that salary bump is the cornerstone of her bill.

“It’s time we stop paying just lip service to support our Texas teachers and start paying them their actual worth,” she said.

Her proposal would also give a $5,500 bonus to school support staff like educational aides and cafeteria workers.

It would also increase the basic allotment — the dollar amount public schools get per student — to $8,947. The basic allotment is currently $6,160.

Public schools advocates say the current amount is not enough to educate a child in Texas and that it should be increased, something that hasn’t happened since 2019.

“It’s a wonkish, inelegant number but it’s what we need to get us to the national average or the national norm when it comes to funding our schools,” Hinojosa said.

Grim future

The Democrats’ proposal faces an uphill battle and is almost certainly guaranteed to fail.

First, they are the minority in the Texas Legislature, and even if they wanted to push for salary increases for teachers, their anti-school-voucher stance could prevent them from being successful.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently said last week he won’t approve raises until the Legislature passes school vouchers.

Most of the Democratic Caucus, as well as Republican lawmakers who represent rural communities, has remained steadfast in their opposition.

“The governor is wrong to bribe legislators with what our schools and kids need to get his political ambitions met,” Hinojosa said. “We need our schools funded now.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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