Texas earns a mediocre grade for its “teacher friendliness,” according to a new study from personal finance website WalletHub.
Based on 21 grading criteria, Texas ranks 20th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia on WalletHub’s list of the best and worst states for teachers. WalletHub says it developed the ranking “to help educators find the best opportunities and teaching environments in the U.S.”
On a scale of zero to 100, Texas’ total score is 55.55. New York ranks first, with a score of 68.12, while Arizona sits at the back of the class, with a score of 37.72.
Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst, says Texas’ overall score “means there’s definitely room for improvement.”
She attributes the middle-of-the-road ranking to the state’s high marks in WalletHub’s “Opportunity and Competition” category (No. 4) but its low marks in the “Academic and Work Environment” category (No. 46). WalletHub split the 21 ranking criteria into those two categories.
Among all the ranking factors, Texas receives the highest grades for:
- Teacher-effectiveness requirements (No. 1)
- Average starting salary for teachers (No. 2, adjusted for cost of living)
- Average teacher pension (No. 2, adjusted for cost of living)
- Projected teacher tenure (No. 6)
- Growth in public school enrollment (No. 7)
However, those good grades are dragged down by poor grades in areas such as:
- Strength of teachers’ union (No. 44)
- Income growth potential for teachers (No. 43)
- Projected teacher turnover (No. 43)
According to the Texas State Teachers Association, average teacher pay in Texas lags the national average by $6,300.
“Our teachers are some of the best in the country, but too many are choosing to work elsewhere because Texas lacks a competitive salary,” Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged in June.
In a statement after the Texas Legislature’s special session wrapped up in August, Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, criticized Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for what he called their failure to support an effort by leaders in the Texas House “to address the woefully inadequate level of state funding for our local public schools.”
A nagging lack of increases in state funding for public education has led to property tax hikes in many Texas communities, Candelaria said.
“Local property taxpayers are forced to make up the difference,” he said, “while teachers have to spend hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket to provide supplies for their classrooms.”
Also failing to gain traction during the Texas Legislature’s special session in Austin was a plan to extend pay raises and bonuses to teachers in public schools, according to the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. Critics noted that not all teachers would have benefited from the pay raises and bonuses, with the Texas State Teachers Association branding the proposal a “hoax.”
In signing legislation that sets up a commission to study school finance reform in Texas, Abbott said in August: “My job as governor is to ensure that we attract and we retain the best and brightest educators, and provide the highest-quality education possible for all students.”