Texas, Bracing for an Influx of Pupils, Eyes Building Bonds, Higher Salaries

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An estimated 1.6 million new students will enter Texas schools by the year 2000, creating a demand for 43,000 more teachers and 67,000 new classrooms, according to reports prepared for the state legislature's forthcoming session.

How these teachers will be recruited and retained and how the new buildings will be financed were two of the major issues addressed recently in the reports, which have been submitted to the Texas select committee on public education in advance of the 1983 legislative session.

The committee is an extension of a task force appointed by Gov. William P. Clements Jr. that presented an extensive set of recommendations on improving Texas public schools to the last Texas legislature.

Several subcommittees reported to the full study committee this month.

To attract and retain public-school teachers, the state will have to increase salaries and benefits, according to Cis Myers, depu-ty commissioner of education in the Texas Education Agency.

The statewide entry-level salary for a beginning teacher is now $11,346, Ms. Myers said.

Although no specific numbers are attached to any of its recommendations, one subcommittee proposed that salaries be made "sufficient to attract an adequate supply and distribution of competent teachers," Ms. Myers said.

The proposal also called for a comprehensive personnel-benefits package, an annual salary "longevity increment," and a scholarship program for Texas students in the top 15 percent of their high-school classes who want to become teachers, according to Ann B. Pennington, director of the professional excellence department in the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

In addition, the subcommittee recommended that the state salary schedule be modified to permit teachers to reach the maximum base salary more quickly. And it urged the creation of an incentive-pay system to help attract teachers to some of the state's more isolated and less desirable school districts.

Such a program, Ms. Pennington said, already exists in Houston, where teachers are paid more to teach in certain inner-city schools.

The committee adopted a recommendation urging the legislature to "consider a provision for some type of funding to local districts" that would make recruitment easier, Ms. Myers said.

School Construction

To help deal with the expected need for new schools, another subcommittee recommended amending the state constitution to allow new school construction to be financed through the sale of bonds guaranteed by the state's $3.5-billion Permanent School Fund.

Earnings from the fund, which contains revenues generated by land set aside by the Texas constitution for the benefit of public schools, currently can only go to the districts as per-capita payments based on average daily attendance.

This plan would not change that, Ms. Myers said. But the principal in the fund would be used to back local bond issues.

The select committee on education is composed of the lieutenant governor, the chairman of the state board of education and two board members, the chairman of the governor's advisory group on education, the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, four additional House members, and four additional senators.

Vol. 02, Issue 08

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