Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
August 2, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113
Cheryl Vanek, (512)463-0101

Eltife, Ellis File Teacher Pay Raise, School Textbook Financing Bill
Bipartisan plan addresses Texans' top concerns, provides baseline for future improvements

(Austin)// Senators Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today announced their intention to file legislation to fund a significant teacher pay raise and new textbooks for Texas schools. The $1.8 billion bipartisan plan will address key concerns while allowing allow lawmakers to continue to find a consensus on vexing school finance issues.

The Senate Bill will provide $295 million in funding for new textbooks for Texas schools, and $1.5 billion for school employees, including $1 billion for teacher pay raises. The funding will provide approximately a $1,000 per teacher raise in the first year, and an additional $1,000 per teacher in the second year. The legislation will restore the teachers health insurance cut of 2003.

"Leadership and members of the legislature have worked tirelessly to find a solution to school finance," Eltife said. "While we cannot reach an agreement on several key issues I do believe there is consensus that we must fund textbooks and provide our teachers with a much deserved pay raise. Our bill will restore the $1,000 insurance stipend to our teachers, provide them with an additional $2,000 pay raise over two years and fund new textbooks for Texas Schools."

"It has become more and more apparent that the legislature cannot come to an agreement on school finance until we adjust our parameters of what we hope to accomplish," Ellis said. "The things we all agree on are being held hostage by the issues on which we cannot yet find consensus. Our legislation allows the legislature to move forward on those key goals where there is agreement and stop the bleeding on school finance. It is time to get on down the road before we do something that could harm our kids' schools."

Texas can afford to invest more in its schools. Texas currently ranks 39th in state aid per pupil; 50th in the high school graduation rate; 48th in SAT scores; and 32nd in average teacher salaries.

Over the past decade, the state share of education funding has continued to drop. In 1993-94, the first year of the current Robin Hood, the state share of education funding stood at 45.2 percent; today, the state share has dropped to only 36.3 percent.

"We must continue our efforts to find a way to provide much needed property tax relief and greater accountability in school budgets, but we should not leave this special session without providing critical funding for textbooks and teacher pay raises," Eltife said. "I am hopeful this bill will be receive support from both the House and Senate."

"If our bill passes, every member can leave Austin knowing they have taken a significant step toward improving their local schools," Ellis said. "Let's not get bogged down on the issues we disagree; let's move forward on those things on which we agree."