The Texas Legislature has been grappling lately with a slew of issues, from immigration and abortion to LGBT rights. Now, a big move for lawmakers there on one particular front: GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has announced relief will soon arrive to help his state's public school teachers. The AP reports that relief will come in the form of $1.6 billion allotted for raises for teachers, librarians, and other support staff, part of a larger $11 billion plan in the Lone Star State that would also ease property taxes and pump funds into other educational initiatives. "I said we will do what no one thought possible: We will finally fix school finance in Texas," Abbott said Thursday, per the Houston Chronicle. The AP notes teacher salaries are about $7,000 below the national average, per stats from the National Educational Association.
Lt. Gov. Patrick also praised the plan, saying it emerged from "the Super Bowl of legislative sessions." However, details on the overall plan—which would also fund full-day pre-K for low-income families and set up a "do not hire" registry for applicants with a history of sexual misconduct, as well as funnel $5 billion toward tax relief—are scarce, leaving teacher unions and school districts optimistic but cautious. "We are disappointed that our state leaders prioritized property tax breaks over long-term, sustainable support for the public schools our kids deserve," a rep for the nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities says, noting the larger amount of $5 billion earmarked for tax relief compared with $4.5 billion promised for classrooms. The legislation still needs to be OKed by the state House and Senate before the legislative session ends Monday. (Read more teacher pay stories.)