Texas Senate panel approves teacher bonuses, retirement benefits

New Retirement Benefits And Teacher Bonuses Courtesy Of The Texas Senate

On July 22, 2017, The Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 19. This was a proposed bill by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and was highly beneficial to teachers. However, not as beneficial for the many Texas school districts. As per the bill, retired teachers will receive health care cost reductions and long-term teachers will see more bonuses and wage increases. The bill was approved by a vote of 10-3 by the Senate Finance Committee.

What Is Senate Bill 19?

The brainchild of authoring Senate Bill 19 was Senator Jane Nelson from Flower Mound. The bill will start to take effect as early as September 2018. The first changes will be providing $193 million to fund teacher bonuses across the state. In addition, $212 million will be invested in state-run health insurance that will benefit retired teachers. The third phase of changes will take effect at the beginning of 2019 and will require all the Texas school districts to fund $1,000 in teacher pay raises.

The bill is supported by the Republicans and mainly opposed by the Democrats. There are many activists and educators who are opposing the $1,000 mandatory teacher pay raises. This is regarded to the fact that the State will not fund this mandatory endeavor. One thing for sure is that Governor Abbott’s priorities about teacher funding have been addressed in Senate Bill 19.

A Short-Term ‘Bridge’ Solution For A Long-Term Problem

Nelson refers to Senate Bill 19 as a necessary ‘bridge’ for the time being, but not a permanent solution to the lack of school district funding. This bill is intended to provide a quick solution so that legislators can continue to work on solving the larger problem of school finance systems throughout the state. Her suggested means for obtaining the money is borrowing it from the Health and Human Services Commission. This borrowed money would be used to fund health benefits and bonuses.

Nelson believes this method is possible if the Health and Human Services Commission defers payments to the Medicaid health care providers. She has proclaimed that she will work with the Commission to ensure the deferred payments don’t affect the services these Medicaid health care companies provide. This is one of the many ways the Senate Finance Committee is working with the limited flexibility place on their budget by the Governor.

The future of the Teacher Retirement System, or TRS for short, is still unsure. The TRS Executive Director, Brian Guthrie, still projects a shortfall of up to $700 million by the year of 2021. By the year 2023, expected short falls are set to reach $2 billion. A long-term solution is something that Teacher Retirement System is hoping to see.

In the past, school employees were expected to absorb the additional health care costs themselves. The school districts have stayed at a fixed rate of contribution, blaming a lack of funding. The finance issues of Texas schools has been an area of debate for many years.

What’s In Store For The Future Of Senate Bill 19?

Nelson expects to butt heads with the House over the method for funding these school finance problems. She has stated that the house proposed using the State’s Rainy Day Fund. However, Nelson explains that she believes that would just be a short-term fix for a larger problem.

Many educators are speaking out against Senate Bill 19 stating it will have an adverse reaction on the Texas School Districts. With the mandatory increase of pay raises, educators are stating they will have to reprioritize money within their districts to meet the mandatory regulations. Nelson has responded that there are other ways to fund the pay raises. The legislators are expected to hash out a way to fund these pay increases at their next session.