Let’s Make Sure Teachers Have What They Need to Stay in the Classroom
By Angie Jackson
In my eighth year of teaching, I taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who were in their first or second year in an American school. When I asked Francisco to read to me, he quickly replied, “No, miss. No se como. I’m not smart.” I explained to him it wasn’t because he wasn’t smart, he just hadn’t learned to read yet. After two years of us working together, Francisco was successful in all three 5th grade state assessments. Four years ago, Francisco graduated third in his class. As a teacher, my students, their families, and the impact I have on young minds all fuel my passion and love for teaching. It is therefore unfortunate that in year 22 of my career, I find myself questioning whether I should remain in this profession.
There are a number of reasons why I am considering leaving the field and the students I love. Unsustainable workload and lack of support are two of them. Most of all, educators’ pay needs to be commensurate with our work. Teachers from across Texas have been facing the issue of low compensation for a long time. First and foremost, the state needs to update the minimum salary schedule to reflect the value of the teaching profession. Additionally, with the current $28 billion surplus, the state should raise the basic allotment, thus increasing the district funding based on student enrollment. It is important that the increase go solely to teacher salaries; therefore, the state must require districts to utilize the extra funding specifically for teacher salaries. This proposed solution would give all teachers across Texas a bump in pay.
In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3, which included the biggest increase in education funding in almost three decades. This established the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA), which created clear pathways for teachers in Texas to earn higher salaries. This strategic compensation plan recognizes the most effective teachers throughout the state. However, not all districts are applying and not all teachers qualify. The Texas Education Agency must actively promote TIA and inform all districts that they, too, will benefit from their teachers’ designations. Though TIA is voluntary, the state should compel districts to participate by providing an incentive to districts who choose to participate. In order to give more teachers more money, approved districts must be mandated to have a certain percentage of teachers submitted for designation to maximize the pool of teachers who qualify for this differentiated compensation. TIA has the ability to serve as a long-term investment in the retention of highly effective teachers and the state needs to leverage its benefits so there is buy-in from most, if not all, districts across the state.
These solutions will put more money in teachers’ pockets, and it should stay there. One way to ensure this is to reduce the cost of healthcare for teachers across the state. Right now, almost 10% of my take-home pay goes toward this necessity and each year I seriously consider canceling our health insurance. I’m sure many teachers are faced with the same dilemma. There are several government and state entities that receive better health insurance pricing. The same should be done for teachers. Providing relief from high health insurance costs would allot teachers more from their gross monthly pay.
Effective teachers are central to guaranteeing student success, preparing our future workforce, and cultivating the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s make sure teachers have what they need to stay in the classroom. Students like Francisco depend on us.
Angie Jackson is a 3rd grade, self-contained teacher at Cleckler-Heald Elementary in Weslaco, Texas and a 2022–2023 Teach Plus Texas Senior Policy Fellow.