Dewhurst Thinks Teachers Have It Just Great in Texas, Except When He Didn't
Teachers are use to working long hours, attending parent teacher conferences, and sometimes sacrificing their personal lives to teach. They don't earn millions of dollars each year like basketball players or actors but the passion they have for education and making a difference is what drives them to the classroom.
On January 16, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst caused a controversy with his comments about teacher's salaries. Dewhurst was elected in 2002 and is hoping for one last term, but that may change come election day.
During a Republican debate against his primary opponents, Dewhurst said, "At the end of the day, we're paying our school teachers, when you count in the cost of living, a very fair salary."
Not long ago Dewhurst was singing another tune. Back in 2006, when he was in the state Senate he was adamantly fighting for teacher's rights and salary increases. So why the change in 2014?
"The lieutenant governor should be ashamed of himself, he knows better than that," said Andy Dewey, current teacher at Carnegie Vanguard High School. "He said it for political purposes and I guess he wasn't expecting the teachers votes anyway."
Dewey has been teaching for 36 years and believes that Dewhurst has been in the Texas government long enough to know how Texas teachers are ranked across the nation.
"I have yet to meet a teacher who agrees with him," said Gayle Fallon, a former teacher and current president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. "If you look at the starting salary, it's almost reasonable but the problem is it doesn't go anywhere."
Fallon doesn't agree with Dewhurst and she doesn't have the slightest idea as to where he came to this conclusion. Fallon also said she doesn't believe the teachers in Texas are earning a fair salary.
We're not sure where Dewhurst received his information or why he thought it sounded good but teachers here in Texas will beg to differ. According to Teacher Portal the average salary for a teacher in Texas is about $48,000.
That equals to roughly $4,000 a month and many of these teachers have to pay rent, utilities, gas, food, and insurance. Don't forget that some of these educators have to spend their own money for supplies for the classroom.
"If you work in HISD you probably can't afford to buy a house in HISD and you better have a working spouse," said Fallon. "One income isn't going to support a family."
Calls made to Dewhurst's office were not returned.
We all know the cost of living in Texas is a lot less than that of other states such as New York. So it should come as no surprise that those teachers have a substantially higher salary than that of Texas.
This brings the question are teachers in states such as New York valued more than those in Texas?
"Other states frankly value their public school teachers more than Texas," said Dewey. "The salary you pay someone indicates how much you value them."
Miguel Orozco is a dual language instructor at Wharton Elementary and has been an educator for 13 years. He initially studied law but made the transition to education because of his love for teaching. He was not too pleased with Dewhurst's comments and is hoping for change beginning with leadership so teachers can be appreciated and a little more financially stable.
"We are going to make it our job to make sure he doesn't win," said Orozco. "First it's the teachers, who's next? It's a war on the middle class."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.