CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The pandemic has caused a lot of shortages and with it, CCISD said, a shortage of teachers.
Dr. Patricia Tijerina, the principal of George Evans Elementary School in Corpus Christi, said they had been experiencing a teacher shortage since before the pandemic, but the pandemic just exacerbated the problem.
“We’re maximizing their time being used here in class so when they’ve had a caseload of a certain number of students, that may have doubled for this school year due to us trying to fulfill the vacancies that we have across our school district,” Tijerina said.
Tijerina said they are lacking special education and dyslexia instructors, instead having to shift around substitutes and put a substitute with a special education certification to fulfill classes in special education.
However, administrators at CCISD said instructor and teacher shortages in special education is a district-wide issue, as well as a lack of tutors and math and literacy coaches.
They’re responding to the shortage through increasing teacher pay and adding retention stipends through their Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, or ESSER. ESSER is money that has been allocated to the school district through the American Rescue Plan.
ESSER1 gave about $10 million to CCISD, ESSER2 giving the school district over $41.5 million, and ESSER3 allocated over $93 million.
The pay for first year teachers in the 2019-2020 school year, before the pandemic, was $50,155. The next year, pay went up $100. This school year, the starting salary for a first year teacher is $51,750.
“We’re trying to keep the money here locally and we would rather invest in our staff and teachers that we have currently and pay them because they know their students better,” said Brandi Garza, CCISD’s coordinator for ESSER3.
The school raised pay for summer school teachers from $25 an hour to $45 an hour while raising pay to $35 an hour from $25 for Saturday instructors.
Raising teacher pay is an issue that Governor Greg Abbott tackled in the 2019-2020 school year. His administration said on their website that the governor gave teachers with more than five years experience over $5,200 while giving teachers with up to five years experience more than $3,800. The administration noted individual raises may vary.
However, it’s also an issue that Governor Greg Abbott’s new gubernatorial race opponent Beto O’Rourke is speaking up for. O’Rourke spoke about raising teacher pay at his rally at La Playa restaurant in Corpus Christi on Thursday.
“I want to make sure that we’re paying our teachers what they’re really worth,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke claimed that many teachers in Nueces County are having to take on a second or third job. That issue is not unfamiliar to Nancy Vera, the Corpus Christi president of the American Federation of teachers, who had to take on a second and third job while working as a teacher.
“Even as a single person it’s very difficult to be able to pay bills, to be able to pay our students loans, to be able to work with the children and even supplement the materials in the classroom,” Vera said.
However, with the issue being tackled by both Abbott and O’Rourke, when asked whether he sees increasing teacher pay as a bipartisan issue, O’Rourke didn’t directly say yes or no.
Instead he said, “Focusing on our schools brings Republicans and Democrats together…..we don’t want to politicize public education so this is an issue that brings us all together.”