Texas plan would tap lottery revenue for teacher bonuses
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Thursday unveiled a plan to boost teacher pay beyond the $1,000 raise called for by Gov. Greg Abbott, and to ultimately pay for it by requiring school districts to reallocate existing funds and, if voters agree, earmarking the first $700 million in lottery money, that already goes to education, for teacher salaries.
Patrick compared his plan, which he hopes to see enacted at the special session that gets underway Tuesday, to what he called House Speaker Joe Straus’ “Ponzi scheme” to increase school funding with tax dollars. He said the Straus plan would lay the groundwork for imposing a state income tax to pay for it, and said that’s a non-starter. Patrick has also called the state’s Rainy Day Fund out of bounds.
Patrick complained that Straus had avoided meeting with him one-on-one during the regular session or since, but that he is ever ready to get together.
In the short term, Patrick said the bonuses, lowering health care costs for retired teachers and other education costs, could be paid for by deferring $700 million in payments to managed care organizations.
Patrick said that Texas spends plenty of money on education — public education, including higher education, he said consumes 52 percent of the state budget.
The problem, he said, is that too little is directed at paying classroom teachers.
Patrick said the average teacher pay in Texas is $51,182. In addition to Abbott’s call for an increase that would average $1,000 per teacher, Patrick said he also wants longevity bonuses to be paid to experienced teachers to encourage them to stay in the classroom, and to retired teachers with 20 years experience.
“I want the goal to be for every district to reallocate an additional five percent of revenues to increase average teacher pay from $51,000 to $60,000” over four years, Patrick said.
The plan to direct lottery money to classroom teachers would require a constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by Texas voters.
Patrick was wearing one of the “20-for-20” pins the governor has been distributing, indicating his determination to pass all 20 items on the governor’s call for the special session. He said the House could also approve the call in total, “if they ever get a chance to vote for them on the floor.”