With the Texas Legislative Special Session beginning today, local school districts say they support proposed faculty pay raises but have not made room in their budgets to increase teachers salaries for 2017-18.

Last month Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session that begins today in Austin.

Over the next few weeks, a list of 20 special-session agenda items are expected to be discussed.

Abbott told the Houston Chronicle districts should pay the proposed $1,000 increase per teacher because the state shouldn’t spend more money.

The districts hadn’t heard that officially.

While the Copperas Cove and Killeen independent school districts are unclear on exactly what a bill to increase teacher salaries would entail, district officials said Monday that they are always in support of fairly compensating their employees.

CCISD Superintendent Joe Burns said, “We are always interested in the opportunity to provide our employees with the most competitive compensation. Therefore, the concept put forth by the governor is admirable. However, there are a number of questions that need to be answered before CCISD could make a judgment call on the merits of a legislatively mandated pay raise.”

Burns added that if pay raises are required for faculty members, CCISD would make an effort to raise pay for all other employees as well.

“In CCISD, our staff is our family, and it is not our practice to provide a pay increase for one category of employees and not for another. If a pay raise was mandated for teachers by the legislature, we would also consider a pay raise for all supporting staff,” Burns said via email Monday.

KISD Superintendent John Craft said, “Competitively compensating all employees remains very important to the recruiting, hiring and retention processes for all associated jobs. The Board has approved a General Pay Increase for all employees to be included in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.”

KISD officials also expressed their intentions to give a 2.5 percent general pay increase for fiscal year 2018. A new teacher beginning a career with KISD will receive a starting salary of $46,500.

However, the budgets for many districts are already being finalized. Both CCISD and KISD have not budgeted for the proposed amount for 2017-18.

CCISD has about 510 faculty members, which would cost the district around $510,000 to increase teacher salaries for the coming school year. KISD has about 3,000 faculty members.

If pay increases become the responsibility of the local school districts, District 55 state Rep. Hugh Shine isn’t on board.

“He (Abbott) hasn’t outlined a plan for it; when he first made the announcement, it was all teachers. Then two or three weeks later, it was some teachers, but school districts will have to figure out how to pay for it,” said Shine, R-Temple. “This is why I was an author of unfunded mandate legislation. It’s leadership passing down mandates without funding it.”

District 24 state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway said "While the details of how to best provide increased pay for our hard-working teachers have yet to be determined, I look forward to working on this legislation, as well as Senate Bill 12 which I have filed to further protect property rights by prohibiting local governments from drastically changing property development rules on land owners after they purchase their property."

254-501-7568 | quinton@kdhnews.com

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