AUSTIN (Nexstar) — School starts in about a month for students, meaning teachers are preparing their classrooms for a year of instruction. Retailers nationwide have already launched their back-to-school promotions, including a 15 percent discount for teachers at Target and Walmart’s new TeacherShop program.
New middle school science teacher Victoria Albee and her mom, Beth, a 7-year high school math teacher, spent Monday afternoon shopping for school supplies.
“Just trying to get stuff to prepare for my classroom,” Victoria said. “So if it means less money for me, that’s fine, as long as it’s kind of helping [the students].”
Beth was excited to pass along some words of advice to her daughter.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to set up my classroom and things to think about, tools that you need,” she explained.
The Albees paid for the supplies out-of-pocket, like most teachers. Local shops also work to meet the demands of teachers on a budget.
“[We] try to create and have on hand, products that have several uses, multiple uses,” Teacher Heaven owner Susan Savoie, who has owned her Austin business for more than two decades.
Teacher salaries and school funding have been a campaign point in the race for the state’s lieutenant governor.
Republican incumbent Dan Patrick mentioned teacher salaries in a statement following a report from the state comptroller about Texas’ finances, showing a $2.6 billion positive revenue.
“This news comes at a good time as we face substantial challenges in the next legislative session including the ever-increasing cost of Medicaid, the on-going recovery from Hurricane Harvey, my commitment to better securing our schools and ensuring a larger portion of education spending goes to teacher salaries,” Patrick said Wednesday.
His Republican primary challenger Scott Milder formed an alliance with multiple education groups, but was ultimately no match for Patrick’s campaign war chest.
Patrick’s Democratic opponent, Houston businessman Mike Collier, said resolving tax issues would allow for more teacher funding.
“The hard part is to get more money into the system without raising homeowner taxes because they’re too high, and without raising small business taxes,” Collier said Monday. “And the solution is to get the big corporations… to pay their fair share of taxes…”
“A lot of folks five or six years in say ‘I can’t afford to be a teacher, and so now… I’ll have to do something else,'” Collier mentioned.
“The fact that we have turnover at that experience level is very very costly to us both in terms of outcomes, and in terms of the financial implications,” Collier added.
In a January campaign ad, Patrick said liberals blocked his attempt to give more money to teachers last year.
Lawmakers tried to pass legislation that would give teachers raises and defray some school supply.
“Teachers are the most important part of a quality education, not expensive buildings or fancy stadiums,” he said in the ad, adding that his plan would have resulted in “an average $10,000 raise for teachers.”
Those bills did not make it to the floor for a vote in either chamber.
“Next session, I will fight to make sure our budget targets more money directly to teachers so they get the $10,000 raise,” Patrick said.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the average salary for a teacher in the state was $53,334.