Teacher Vacancy Task Force highlights critical ways to support teachers
The Teacher Vacancy Task Force just released its final report, which focuses on raising teacher salaries and overall compensation and tackles difficult issues facing the teaching profession.
- The recommendations are promising opportunities to focus on enhancing and elevating the teaching profession.
- Texas 2036 is particularly excited about recommendations around raising teacher take-home pay — through increased salaries and lower health care premiums — and the emphasis on high-quality instructional materials as a tool to reduce teacher workload.
The Teacher Vacancy Task Force, which was established in March 2022 to examine teacher retention and recruitment challenges across Texas, just released its much anticipated final report. The report focuses on three areas: teacher compensation, teacher training and support, and working conditions. Within these areas there are several recommendations on improving teacher pay, recruiting more teachers, expanding teacher training and support, and respecting and valuing teacher time. A full list of the eight recommendations and their sub recommendations is at the bottom of this blog.
The report is thoughtful and expansive, offering many different tools that the Legislature could deploy this session to support teachers. We believe these policy solutions will result in increased compensation for teachers and a higher-quality of life for our educator workforce.
Increasing and enhancing compensation are arguably the most important recommendations mentioned in the report. Texas needs to pay its teachers more, and the best teachers need to have access to enhanced compensation that reflects their profound contributions in the classroom. According to our Fall 2022 voter poll, 79% of Texans supported increasing teacher pay across the board and 65% supported additional merit-based increases. We’ve written in the past about the importance of the Teacher Incentive Allotment as a tool to drive up teacher wages as well as recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the need to raise teacher salaries in public education.
Compensation also encompasses more than just salary.
Teacher health care expenditures are skyrocketing, taking up more and more of teacher take-home pay. The Taskforce recommends the Legislature consider several ways to lower the teacher’s share of premiums, such as increasing the state contribution percentage and allowing school districts to choose from multiple health care plans to meet teacher needs.
Should the Legislature wish to address this challenge, we’d recommend taking a more holistic look at the problem of high health spending, which is not unique to teachers, and tackling the root cause of rising health spending: higher health care prices. Because of the unique nature of how teacher health insurance funding is split between districts, the state, and teachers, the political debate has often focused on how to allocate the share of responsibility. While this debate is important, a more pressing objective should be to identify strategies to reduce total cost and empowering plan administrators to implement those strategies with the full backing of the legislature.
Within compensation, the report highlights an interesting data point that is worth further consideration by the Legislature. In 2021-2022, 31% of new hires were returning to the teaching profession. Focusing compensation and recruitment efforts on returning teachers is a new way of creating a robust and competitive teacher workforce. The numbers show that it is a promising, but perhaps underutilized, pool of teaching talent. The report’s recommendation to develop a marketing campaign and incentives to recruit former teachers back to the classroom could yield good results.
However, raising teacher pay alone will not solve all of the issues highlighted by the task force.
There are important policy decisions that the Legislature can make this session to better support the teaching profession. Expanding teacher leadership opportunities, access to mental health services and improving school’s handling of discipline matters are all worthy of discussion.
High-Quality Instructional Materials
We are particularly heartened by the reports focus on high-quality instructional materials as a critical tool to improve teacher quality of life. For months, Texas 2036 has been highlighting the role that instructional materials can play in improving teacher quality of life.
The Taskforce Report highlights a major, but under explored, problem in Texas classrooms: 25% of the reading curriculum in elementary classrooms is not approved by the state and does not align with the science of good reading instruction. This means that hundreds of thousands of Texas elementary schoolers and their teachers are disadvantaged in their approach to reading instruction, impacting student achievement at every subsequent stage of the educational pipeline.
By making these materials available, the state can ensure that teachers have more time to focus on how to differentiate instruction and use curriculum in target ways to support student needs instead of outside of the classroom planning their lessons.
Texas 2036 appreciates the important work of the Taskfroce, and we are heartened by the continued focus on teacher compensation increases in particular. We look forward to the discussion this session on how to better support our public school teachers.
The Teacher Vacancy Task Force made several recommendations, with accompanying sub-recommendations that the Legislature could consider this session:
1. Increase overall teacher compensation and support strategic compensation strategies.
- Fund a significant increase in overall teacher salaries by increasing the basic allotment and other state funding mechanisms, while increasing the requirement that school systems invest new funding in teacher salaries.
- Update the minimum salary schedule to reflect the value of Texas teachers and promote differentiated compensation.
- Provide technical assistance for school systems to engage in strategic compensation, including through the Teacher Incentive Allotment, established by the 86th Texas Legislature, and staffing considerations to further increase and differentiate salaries.
2. Enhance teachers’ total compensation package.
- Reduce the cost of health care insurance for teachers.
- Prioritize teacher wellbeing through mental health supports, expanded access to childcare and other benefits.
- Temporarily subsidize the retire/rehire surcharge.
3. Provide incentives and support for hard-to-staff areas.
- Subsidize certification and hiring incentives for Special Education and Bilingual Education Teachers.
- Create targeted marketing campaigns and incentives to recruit teachers back into the profession.
- Collect and report real-time data about teacher vacancies in tandem with the development of a statewide teacher employment web application.
4. Improve the pipeline and pre-service preparations of novice teachers.
- Expand high-quality Grow Your Own pathways for high school students and paraprofessionals seeking to become certified teachers.
- Establish and fund a Teacher Residency pathway and expand educator preparation program capacity to produce teacher residents through technical assistance support.
5. Expand training and support for teacher mentorship and teacher leadership opportunities.
- Develop cooperating teacher and mentor teacher training that is job-embedded and leverages research-based best practices.
- Increase funding for and scale of the Mentor Program Allotment, established by the 86th Texas Legislature.
- Provide opportunities and technical assistance to school systems to create and expand teacher leadership roles
6. Provide access and support for high-quality instructional materials.
- Expand awareness of and access to high-quality instructional materials to reduce time teachers spend searching for and creating materials.
- Require educator preparation programs to integrate instruction on understanding high-quality instructional materials into coursework and provide training for faculty/ staff on curriculum and assessment literacy best practices.
7. Demonstrate respect and value for teacher time.
- Develop and conduct teacher time studies with school systems to inform staffing and scheduling policies and decisions.
- Provide technical assistance to school administrators to redesign master schedules that increase teacher time for planning and development.
- Expand training and technical assistance support for school systems to design and implement strategic staffing models.
8. Schoolwide culture and discipline supports.
- Expand access to additional counseling staff, services and partnerships that support both students and teachers.
- Provide preparation, training and ongoing coaching for school administrators on best practices related to school discipline and fostering a supportive learning environment.