According to the lieutenant governor of Texas, teachers in Texas are bringing home a “a very fair salary” as far as their wages are concerned.
Texas has long lagged behind most of the nation in teachers’ pay with 31 states paying their teachers more and well below the national average. Nationwide teachers average about $55,000 annually while teachers in Texas average approximately $47,300.
The debate comes as Dewhurst faces the most hotly contested race in the state, with four other very conservative Republicans challenging him for his spot on the ticket for a fourth term. Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Senator Dan Patrick are all competing against him.
“At the end of the day, we’re paying our school teachers — when you count in cost of living — a very fair salary,” Dewhurst said during the debate.
After the debate Senator Patrick said that the lieutenant governors remarks were “off the mark” and said that the state needs to pay more especially for math and science teachers — which the state is badly in need of.
Staples refused to give a direct answer when asked if he felt that teachers should be paid better but indicated that he would always look for ways to better compensate teachers.
“We want good teachers in the classroom and we need a system that rewards them appropriately,” he said.
Speaking after the debate, Dewhurst seemed to backtrack somewhat, saying that if he had his way, he would pay Texas teachers enough that the state would see a “tsunami of applicants.” He did however say that the state was often compared to states with higher costs of living which makes it appear that teachers are making less than they actually are.
“That means instead of paying teachers little over $50,000 to $55,000 on average each teacher, when you factor that in and you compare it to other states, they’re being paid substantially more,” he said.
Patrick said that he has no problem with increasing teachers’ pay but that he would demand accountability. He is chairman of the Senate education committee.
“Some teachers that we have are underpaid, some teachers that we have are overpaid,” he said. “Let’s focus on paying more money to teachers in the needed subject areas, and let’s pay more money to teachers who perform.”
Education is shaping up to be the pivotal issue in the campaign for state office in the state this year. In the race for governor between Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis, Abbot has remained silent on the issue of school finance while Davis has criticized the fact that many teachers are working second and third jobs to make ends meet.
In a trial last year a state judge ruled that the current method the state uses to finance education is unconstitutional. The cases of several plaintiffs have been combined and further testimony is slated to begin in March to settle on how the state will finance schools in the future.
The 68 year-old Dewhurst is the only candidate seeking reelection in a statewide race this year and says that he wants one more term before returning to the private sector. He is also the wealthiest candidate in the race by far, although his wealth was not enough to defeat Ted Cruz in a 2012 run for the U.S. Senate, a race in which he spent $25 million of his own money.
The state primaries will be held on March 4.
h/t: WFFA 8