Part five of the ongoing series covering Teachers for Texas’ survey reveals educators in our state are concerned about their livelihood. Low salaries, high-deductible and high-premium insurance, and concern over the future was a shared sentiment statewide. 

Out of more than 5,400 total responses, 1,189 teachers—22 percent—expressed concern with pay and benefits. 

The biggest concern, with 649 responses, was salary. Texas is a big state, with some smaller districts only paying educators the state minimum—currently $33,660 for a new teacher—such as Fort Stockton ISD.

There are districts that pay closer to $60,000, such as the Hurst-Euless-Bedford School District, which pays their first-year teachers $57,700.

One teacher in the Austin area stated, “I am a single mom of three kids, and teaching does not pay enough to keep a roof over our heads or food on the table. I work over 60 hours a week AT SCHOOL as a teacher, then bring home more work. And I can’t afford to live near where I teach because I need to make at least $65,000 to live near Austin. But I only make $6,000 more than when I started teaching 15 years ago [$51,500].”

During the 86th Legislative Session, legislators passed House Bill 3, allowing high-need urban and rural schools to receive bonuses for performance. This did not go into effect until after the Teachers for Texas survey had been completed.

The second-highest concern of teachers was healthcare. 

More than 300 teachers said the cost or quality of current healthcare for teachers is not good. One teacher stated they “will end up teaching sick because they can not afford to go to the doctor.” 

“My biggest issue is the cost of health insurance,” A Houston-area teacher said. “I’m seriously considering leaving the profession after 11 years because I cannot afford to teach, based on a $24,000/year cost of health insurance.” The same teacher said they are working a second job just to pay for healthcare.

The issue of retirement and Social Security was another concern.

Currently, school employees can not receive Social Security and retirement, due to the Windfall Elimination Provision. So, teachers who came to the profession after accumulating their 40 quarters of work to be eligible for Social Security will have to choose between that or retirement. 

This is concerning to 138 of the teachers surveyed. A teacher from a Houston suburb said, “Retirement is not very good … not being able to also collect SSI that I have paid into that would offset the retirement from teaching.”

Lower-paying district employees are even further impacted due to the need to have second jobs that deduct Social Security. 

The issues raised were echoed by teachers in every type of school district—not just large, urban ones. Rural schools may struggle more with the cost of insurance, though, since many teachers in those areas are paid only slightly more than the state minimum.

And when it comes to affording healthcare, those teachers in rural areas have to spend the same amount on healthcare as urban and suburban teachers.

If you are a teacher that has concerns about what is going on in the education profession, please contact Texas Scorecard by sending an email to tcollum@texasscorecard.com.