In Sheryl Moore’s 33 years of experience in education, she noted there has only been one other time where she could feel the ground shaking underneath her as the legislative powers that be go to work discussing school funding reform.
“That all goes back to the last election where the public sent a message,” Moore said. “Community members on top of teachers and parents awakened the giant.”
In recent weeks, both the House of Representatives and Senate have provided their own versions of bills that tackle school funding as well as some property tax alterations.
Moore, the Sealy ISD Superintendent, mentioned she has an open line of communication with the offices of both State Rep Ben Leman and Senator Lois Kolkhorst, to stay in touch with how Austin County should be represented.
Although the trio may not see eye-to-eye on every single issue, they are all always on the lookout for the betterment of the county.
This stretch of time has been no different as Moore understands both sides’ bills are looking out for the best interests of students and that both chambers have the will to get it done.
School funding has been made a big issue in the biennial term although it is finally being done voluntarily and without a court order.
Moore added that the importance of the topic was brought out in the previous election, where voters came out in droves with one thing on the top of their mind.
They are now being heard as amendments and revisions are underway to both sides of the bill that will change the landscape of funding education.
The two bills are not far apart from each other with similarities including an overall budget around $250 billion with the public education portion of the budget sitting at $9 billion.
But the way those nine billion dollars are split up are a little different on either side so further discussions are still needed before the final amounts are cemented.
Because there is still much to be determined, Moore knows not to throw all of eggs in one basket just yet.
“I can’t get too caught up in things at this time,” she noted, understanding there’s plenty of time for things to change.
At the moment, things are close but the rate at which teachers’ salaries will be increased vary with each piece of legislation.
The Senate’s bill increases the pay for teachers and librarians $5,000 across the board. On the contrary, the House’s increase is only around $1,300 on average, but also provides “additional money for raises to be given at districts’ discretion,” said a story from Aliyya Swaby of The Texas Tribune. (“Texas House approves major school finance reform package, adds teacher raises to the bill”)
Moore spoke to the flexibility of the House’s write-up, mentioning the added wiggle room for faculty outside of strictly teachers and librarians.
“Not that teacher pay-increases are ever a bad thing, but [the Senate’s bill] would not give us any latitude for hourly positions or anything else,” Moore said.
Said pay increase will likely benefit teachers who reside around the state minimum which provides $30,000 annually to instructors.
However, that salary doesn’t always get the job done for the rest of the household and some teachers are forced to pick up another job to make ends meet.
The Texas State Teachers Association released survey results from 2018 where out of 974 participants, nearly 40 percent reported working a second job during the school year, a jump up from 31 percent from the last survey in 2016.
Moore understands those struggles and added she worked a summer job herself when she was teaching and that despite only a 10-month work “schedule” more hours are put into those 10 months than most people put in over a regular 12-month routine.
"Most of our teachers also teach Sunday school or lead a boy or girl scout troop,” Moore included. “They’re the doers and givers of the community.”