AUSTIN - School may be out, but when Texas lawmakers head back to the capitol for the Special Session, Governor Greg Abbott (R) wants them to be thinking about education.
"Nothing is more important than our children. Their future and our future is shaped by the quality of their education," Abbott said last month as he announced plans to call a special session.
And during that news conference, Abbott said the first items he wants lawmakers to work on, after the must pass sunset legislation, are related to teachers.
"During this special session, I want legislation on my desk that increases teacher pay by $1,000," Abbott said.
Abbott asked Representative Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) to take the lead and craft that legislation.
"I think that a number of us throughout the legislature and around the state want to see our teachers better compensated and restore the prestige and honor to the teaching profession, but the devil's always in the details. And it's figuring out where that money would come from and what is the appropriate amount," Clardy said.
During his news conference, Abbott did say a definite amount. He also said where he doesn't want the money to come from the state.
"Texas doesn't need to spend more, we just need to spend smarter," Abbott told reporters. 'The pay increases can easily be achieved by passing laws that re-prioritize how schools spend money and we can do that without taxpayers spending a penny more.'
It's worth noting, the newly passed state budget decreases how much the state puts in to fund education to about 38 percent of the total cost. But that's not deterring Clardy.
"One of the things that I think is important is, in the big picture, what are we trying to do with the compensation. And that is we want to make sure our current teachers will stay on the job," Clardy said.
"And also, equally important, what do we do to attract current students to go into the profession of teaching," he added.
That brings us to another thing Abbott wants lawmakers to do: give administrators the ability to hire and fire teachers more easily.
"Principals and administrators should have the tools to retain and to reward the very best teachers and to replace those who are ineffective," Abbott said.
Abbott asked Clardy to write this bill too. Representatives Joe Deshotel and Richard Raymond plan to help with both.
Clardy said another factor that weighs into teacher recruitment and retention is ensuring the state is addressing teacher retirement properly. An issue he also hopes to work on in the future.
Clardy said the language of the bills on teacher pay and hiring/firing is not finished yet and he is meeting with stakeholders this week to get their feedback on the issues.
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