Teachers union calls pay raise plan 'a political stunt'

Lieutenant governor sees Texas Lottery as the funding source

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - “A political stunt” is how the president of a union representing 60 percent of teachers in the San Antonio Independent School District describes a pay raise proposal by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“To put a proposal like this, with no funding from the state, is ridiculous,” said Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, which has 2,600 members.

At a news conference Thursday, Patrick said although some would say his plan is an unfunded mandate, the Texas Lottery could be the funding source.

“The first $700 million of the lottery will go toward paying the longevity bonuses for retired teachers and current teachers,” Patrick said.

Patrick said every March starting next year, “Every current teacher with six to 10 years experience gets a $600 bonus and every current teacher with 10 years or more gets a $1,000 bonus.”

He said that would be on top of the $1,000 raise proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

But Patrick said first, lawmakers at the special session starting next week have to weigh in. He said his proposal would involve voters approving a constitutional amendment, perhaps in November or early next year.

Until then, if it happens, Potter said school districts, especially those that are considered “low wealth," such as SAISD, already are stretched thin. Yet the lieutenant governor wants school districts to allocate 5 percent more of their funding to teacher pay “to raise the average teacher salary by $8,000 in just the next four years.”

"It's a shell game," Potter said. "That $700 million is flowing to public education already. So, if that gets designated for teacher salaries, it means that money will have to be cut from somewhere else in public ed."

Although Patrick calls $60 billion in state funding “astonishing,” Potter says school districts are being “starved.” She said funding increases have not kept up with the growth of student enrollment statewide.

As an example, Potter said property values are increasing within SAISD, but it means less money from the state of Texas.

“So the state percentage has been shrinking, which means the local percentage is increasing,” Potter said. “We already have a property tax rate as high as we can go.”

Potter said SAISD trustees have adopted a budget that includes pay raises in an effort to compete with other school districts. She said the union would rather the state reconsider an increase in per-pupil funding to also help pay for teacher salary increases. She said it was proposed during the regular session in the Texas House.

“Teachers are not stupid,” Potter said, referring to what the lieutenant governor wants to see. “While we would love a pay increase. Teachers understand that this is not a serious plan or a serious proposal.”

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