The start of the 2018-2019 school year in Texas is a still a little less than two months away, but this is crunch time for the state’s teachers. Many of them are free agents, who can leave their school district for greener pastures if a different district offers them a better deal.
To that end, school districts all across North Texas are doing what they can to compete for top talent.
There are two overarching themes to the employment incentives that local districts offer to their teachers – money and benefits.
In terms of money, several districts confirmed for NBC DFW that their respective school boards have approved raises for the coming school year – the Plano Independent School District, the Fort Worth ISD and the Northwest ISD noted that they will offer two percent raises, the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD will offer a 2.5 percent raise, the Aledo ISD, Allen ISD and the Frisco ISD have made a three percent raise available and the Waxahachie ISD has approved a 3.5 percent raise.
The Waxahachie ISD noted that this will be the fifth straight school year that their employees were given a raise.
The top tactic, according to multiple sources, that local districts utilize to lure in new teaching talent is an increase to the starting salary they offer.
For example, the Frisco ISD noted it has increased the starting salary for a teacher by $2,500 for the coming school year - from $50,500 to $53,000. A district spokesperson noted that as a result of the starting salary bump, existing teachers will also get a corresponding pay scale adjustment, which coupled with the three percent raise they are already getting will result in a nearly five percent overall raise.
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Just this week the Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees approved a $1,000 increase to the starting salary for a teacher. The district already has a track record of touting its starting pay. Fort Worth ISD ran billboards in Oklahoma advertising their starting pay in an effort to recruit teachers this past spring, during the statewide teacher walkout over pay and funding concerns.
The Plano ISD noted that it has also upped the starting salary for a new teacher for the 2018-2019 school year, in addition to making a one-time $500 payment to eligible, existing employees in December.
Dallas ISD, the largest school district in the region, has largely focused on giving out incentive payments, essentially a signing bonus, spread out over a new teacher’s first two years of employment. The bonuses are intended to recruit teachers in certain subjects – for example, Dallas ISD offers $4,000 for bilingual elementary teachers, and $3,000 for secondary math, science and career and technology teachers.
Rena Honea, the President of Alliance AFT, the Dallas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, noted that the Dallas ISD, as well as others, seem to prioritize recruiting new teachers over retaining their longtime teaching staff.
“There is not a lot that is being done for those that have been in the district for a while,” Honea said. “But to be competitive in the market they feel like they have to raise the beginning salary so that they are competitive with districts around.”
Noel Candelaria, a special education teacher from El Paso who is the current President of the Texas State Teachers Association, the largest teachers’ organization in the state, agreed with Honea. And he emphasized that focusing too much on the new teacher does little to incentivize staying in the same district for any lengthy period of time.
“You might come in making $48,000 to $50,000 a year starting your first year, but there is only an average of about $10,000 to $12,000 difference between you and a 30-year veteran,” said Candelaria.
In addition to money, several North Texas school districts touted the benefits they offer to their staff as effective incentives for employment.
For example, both the Allen ISD and the Northwest ISD specifically touted the health and wellness clinic they offer to employees and their families. In Allen, for instance, a $10 payment gets you treated by a medical professional with no additional bill to your insurance.
The Plano ISD noted that it is building a third employee child care center for the coming school year.
A multiple school districts, including Aledo ISD, Highland Park ISD and Waxahachie ISD allow teachers to enroll their children in district schools even if they do not live inside the district. The Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees just approved that policy last week, and as of now it only applies to children in grades K through 5.