BY KEVIN GARCIA
The Brownsville Herald
February 2, 2006 School districts statewide are in a competition with no end: They each want the best teachers available and are going out of their way to sign them up.
For most districts, it means offering attractive salaries and incentives, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.
The current average salary for a beginning Texas teacher is $29,354, while Brownsvilles district offers $33,000.
I think were doing pretty good, said Michael Zolkoski, superintendent of Brownsville schools.
However, the real test is how a district compares to other local districts, he said.
Brownsville pays starting teachers $1,000 less than the Los Fresnos, San Benito and Harlingen school districts.
BISD with 47,000 students also pays less than the starting average of $36,352 for districts with more than 10,000 students.
In the past couple of years, BISD has added $3,800 to teacher salaries. Zolkoski said there is more to attracting teachers than money.
Brownsville public school teachers have full insurance coverage, and Zolkoski estimated the district spends about $3,744 per employee each year on insurance, adding value to their paychecks.
Mary Elizabeth Barrett, assistant director for compensation services for TASB, said all school districts are required to pay at least some employee insurance, and that on average districts pay $3,400 per employee each year.
What can set districts apart is the amount they pay in stipends, something that only 61 percent of Texas districts do for teachers with a masters degree in their teaching field.
The average stipend paid by districts adds up to about $1,160 to teacher salaries. Los Fresnos pays a $2,000 stipend for teachers with a masters degree. BISD pays a $3,000 stipend. Statewide, 12 percent of Texas teachers have masters degrees.
Barrett said the average Texas teacher has 12 years experience and earns $41,009. In Brownsville a teacher with 12 years experience earns $41,302. A teacher with the same experience in Los Fresnos makes $41,192.
Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District also has more to prove than other districts, said Birdie Rodriguez, executive director for support services. Teachers often look for the amenities offered by larger cities before considering a small town, he said.
Were in competition with larger school districts, Rodriguez said of Los Fresnos, which serves about 8,000 students. Were so isolated. We dont have the Whataburgers. We dont have the McDonalds. We dont have the shopping centers. Its not as attractive as working in a larger city.
Barrett said Los Fresnos is not the norm, however, as most school districts serve about 1,000 students.
Regardless, pay is an important factor.
Teachers are just like other employees, and they will tell you that job satisfaction and relationships with supervisors are more important than pay, Barrett said. People dont usually leave a job because of salaries, but when people are looking for a new job, they look for the salary.
Were never happy with teacher pay. Nobody is, she said. So, were always working to improve that.
Zolkoski said teachers always disserve more pay than they get.
Teachers never make enough money, he said. They teach tomorrows leaders.