HP, Dallas ISDs’ Starting Teacher Salaries Above State Average

Texas ranks outside top 10 nationwide; New Jersey, Alaska top list. (Illustration: Craig Tuggle)

Educator salaries have been a topic of intense national scrutiny in 2018, with teachers walking out in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and more recently, Arizona, to demand better pay and benefits.

While no such walkouts have occurred in Texas, educator salaries in the country’s third-most populated state often face scrutiny, too

The National Education Association reports an average annual salary of $40,725 for first-time educators in Texas – more than $2,000 above the national average of $38,617.

That starting salary of $40,725 puts Texas outside the top 10 in the nation, with the District of Columbia offering the highest starting salary of $51,359. New Jersey ($51,179), Alaska ($46,785), and Hawaii ($45,963) are other states that offer above or near $50,000 as starting salaries. Texas ranks 14th.

“Beginning teacher pay in the DFW area is very competitive,” said Todd Williams, finance commissioner with the Texas Education Agency. “Our challenges are that beginning pay is not tied to the quality or rigor of their preparation program, and if you do attend a rigorous program, and are a highly effective teacher in your early years, you are not compensated for the difference that that program made in your effectiveness. Instead, the vast majority of area districts provide lockstep raises tied to seniority regardless of effectiveness.”

Seniority-based raises are in place in Highland Park, which reports a $49,181 annual salary for first-time educators. The district also increases the annual salary of hired teachers based on their years of experience, all the way up to 30 years. A teacher in Highland Park with 25 years of experience, for example, is hired with a starting salary of $60,100.

That’s different than in Dallas ISD, where a cap on starting salaries is in place for new hires with 15 years of experience or more. Once teachers reach the 15-year mark, Dallas ISD offers a salary capped at $57,000 for new hires. Dallas ISD does offer higher salaries for teachers that work longer than the set school-year schedule of 187 days, though: A new hire with 30 years of experience could earn up to $68,888 if they work a 226-day school year.

“Progressive school districts like Dallas ISD are the exception,” Williams said. “DISD evaluates all of its educators annually and pays based on effectiveness against seniority. It also pays $10,000 to $15,000 stipends on top of performance-based salaries.”

The starting salary for teachers in Dallas ISD with zero years of experience is $50,000, according to district officials.

Dallas ISD contributes to the state’s “Robin Hood” program, which calls for property-wealthy districts to share funding that ultimately goes back into property-poor districts. Highland Park ISD does as well, and has paid more than $1.2 billion back to the state since 1994 – including $80 million in 2016, according to the district’s website. It’s a flawed system, Williams said, and one he said is not sustainable.

“Recapture is not working, and will likely be addressed in the forthcoming school finance bill,” Williams said.