Teacher Pay & Administrative Flexibility: The Issue


From: Teacher Pay & Administrative Flexibility, Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2017-18 Legislator’s Guide, Special Session Edition.

Nothing is more important to a child’s academic success in the classroom than his teacher. To ensure that students have access to the best educators, administrators must be free to hire, fire, and determine the pay of teachers. The Texas Association of School Administrators agrees:

Bureaucracies value power and authority, while learning organizations are driven by beliefs and values. Schools must be transformed from their current bureaucratic form.…  Educating our youth is not a state responsibility but a local function.  Attempts to run the schools from Austin and Washington will result in a further decline in the local sense of ownership and responsibility at the very time when local involvement is most needed.”

When parents, principals, and teachers are given the authority to make the necessary decisions to improve public education, it is the students who will win. Local administrators will have more freedom to encourage and reward their highest performers and teachers will experience increased work satisfaction and productivity. They will both provide the best product to their customer: the student and his parents. Texas spends more than $12,000 per student each year on public education. In Texas, the average elementary school class has 18 students; in high schools, the average class size is 27. Therefore, Texas spends about $216,000 per elementary school class and about $324,000 per high school class. However, the average Texas teacher’s salary in 2014-2015 was $50,715. From 1992-2014, teaching staff in Texas increased by 53 percent, while administrator and “all other staff” increased by an alarming 174 percent. If Texas had simply increased its administrative staff at the same rate as teaching staff, Texas would have saved $7.4 billion annually. Every teacher could receive a $22,100 pay raise annually.

Of course, pay raises should be based on teacher performance, not a pre-determined set salary schedule. At the same time, school leaders must be relieved of some of the most onerous limitations on staff management found in Chapter 21 of the Education Code. Meria Carstarphen, former superintendent of the Austin ISD and former superintendent in a traditionally-run union state, testified that Texas labor laws (non-union) make it more difficult to manage labor practices than the union states in which she previously worked. She found that Texas’ Chapter 21 labor laws can add up to $80,000 for each teacher dismissal process. These labor laws harm the teaching profession, force misallocation of resources, and prevent employment decisions from being made at the local level.

What is in the best interest of the child? Clearly, great teachers matter to the child. And great teachers should be rewarded and encouraged to mentor their less-experienced peers. Allowing districts—and their locally elected board members—to direct salary schedules and hiring practices helps both teachers and students. No bureaucracy in Austin should have the power to dictate how a locally run school district runs its business. That is not in the best interest of the child.