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Bonuses For Texas Teachers And Healthcare Help For Retirees

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick wants to help current and retired teachers with millions of dollars in bonuses.

He outlined his plan during a news conference at the state Capitol days before the legislature convenes in a special session.  The Lt. Governor says there is no new money needed because there is enough money already in the system and that it needs to be allocated properly.

Mr. Patrick says he wants to give current and retired teachers longevity bonuses ranging from $600 to $1,000 a year depending on their years of service.  He says it's a way to keep teachers in Texas and to thank those who for their service.

The Lt. Governor wants to inject an additional $200 million to help some retired teachers pay for their healthcare, $150 million for struggling school districts, and $60 million for fast-growing school districts.  He says the money for these programs for the 2018-19 budget will come from deferring $700 million in payments to managed care organizations.

Over the long term, Patrick says he wants Texas voters to change the state constitution so that the first $700 million from the Texas Lottery that's slotted for education will pay for the teacher bonuses and healthcare.

In addition, Patrick says he supports Governor Abbott's call for all teachers to receive a $1,000 raise, and that the school districts already have enough money to pay for increases over the next four years.  "There's a lot of money in the system.  $60 billion a year, and that's all the money we have.  So we have to prioritize here and they have to prioritize.  Teachers have to come first."

The Lt. Governor also said he would like to gradually phase-out during the next four legislative sessions $1.5 billion in recapture funding, in which property-wealthy school districts across Texas give some of their money to the state to subsidize property-poor school districts.

He says he would like the state to pay for that instead by finding savings across the state budget.

For its part, the Texas American Federation of Teachers said Thursday the Lt. Governor's plan isn't serious because it asks school districts to stretch already thin budgets even more.

The Lt. Governor said he's ready to pass bills on all 20 bills called for by Governor Abbott.  Patrick says his two top priorities are the bills to help teachers and property tax reform.

The special session starts Tuesday.

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