Texas Teachers Struggle Amid Property Tax Cut Deal
In recent years, Texas teachers have faced numerous challenges that have taken a toll on their profession. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education, and now, the combination of political polarization and a lack of significant salary increases is pushing some educators to leave the field. Unfortunately, education advocates believe that the long-awaited property tax cut package will do little to alleviate their struggles.
According to Patty Quinzi, the director of public affairs and legislative counsel at the Texas AFT teachers union, the property tax cut deal will not result in increased funding for schools. Instead, it only benefits homeowners by reducing their tax burden. Quinzi, along with the rest of Texas AFT, finds it frustrating to hear Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick portray the deal as a boon for teachers. She points out that homeownership is out of reach for many teachers, particularly younger ones, making the tax cut insufficient as a raise.
The fear of a looming teacher shortage continues to persist among education advocates. Despite promises from lawmakers during the 88th Legislature to address educators’ needs, the session left them feeling unsatisfied. Quinzi attributes the potential teacher shortage to the “lack of respect” shown by state legislators, which she compares to a “slap in the face” for overworked teachers with stagnant salaries. The Teacher Vacancy Task Force’s recommendation of significant salary increases and the state’s record $32.7 billion budget surplus added to educators’ hopes for raises.
However, the recently signed tax deal fails to allocate any new funding to schools, despite Texas’s relatively low ranking in per-student spending. The deal still needs approval from voters in November. Quinzi expresses concern that teacher shortages will worsen as districts’ local ability to raise revenue is hindered by the property tax cut. Texas AFT fears that districts will have to dip into their reserve funding, which is meant for rainy days, to provide raises since the Legislature did not allocate funding.
Lawmakers’ inaction on public education is taking a toll on teachers. School districts are in dire need of funds to offer raises, forcing them to get innovative and utilize every available resource. Rena Honea, president of the Alliance/AFT teachers union in Dallas, captures the sentiment by stating, “[O]ur educators are really tired of just getting scraps left over.”
Furthermore, education is consistently placed at the bottom of the agenda during legislative sessions, neglecting Texas’ most valuable asset: its children. Honea laments that the Legislature prioritizes other matters over education, leaving educators frustrated with their marginal share. To exacerbate the situation, some districts are forced to pass deficit budgets due to a state law demanding armed security on every campus, resulting in added expenses and potential layoffs of other employees.
While Lt. Gov. Patrick promises future action on teacher raises, some remain skeptical. The property tax cut plan is only temporary, lasting two years before another legislative session is required to reevaluate it. Honea contends that the Legislature has yet to address the critical needs of Texas’ kids. As budgets for the next school year are due in June, some school boards are already facing deficits caused by the additional security requirements. Honea anticipates that Abbott will call a special session in September or October to address educational funding, as legislators seek to avoid the presence of educators in the Capitol.
In the face of these challenges, Texas teachers remain resilient. They are determined to fight for fair compensation and adequate resources, even if it means advocating outside the classroom. The upcoming legislative sessions will be crucial in determining the future of education in Texas.