ABILENE, Texas - Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made a comment during a debate Monday that "we're paying our school teachers – when you count in cost of living – a very fair salary."
The statement angered many teachers in Texas who feel that they work extremely hard and aren't paid enough.
"Teachers work before school, during school and after school," said Chris Halifax, a 5th grade teacher at Reagan Elementary School. "It's not a job that you can leave at 4 p.m. and go home and do something else. You go home and grade papers. You go home and prepare lessons for the next day. It's a 24 hour a day job."
In 2010, Texas' average teacher pay was about $47,300. That's $8,000 less than the national average of nearly $55,000.
Halifax said her being a teacher was somewhat of a calling.
"I just saw the way education changed the lives of children," Halifax said.
Halifax said the job is rewarding in many ways, but money is not one of them.
"In education we're expected to exceed excellence and no, I don't feel the compensation is equal to the expectation of our state," Halifax said.
Halifax said she disagrees with what Dewhurst said Monday.
"I don't feel that salary should be attached to a cost-of-living," Halifax said. "They're not necessarily connected because our kids in Texas are just as valuable as kids and other states where they pay teachers more."
Abilene ISD Superintendent Heath Burns said Dewhurst's statement is insulting.
"Texas ranks in the 40s at the very best in terms of teacher compensation and the insinuation that teachers are compensated fairly in Texas is an overstatement and overreach by the (lieutenant) governor," Burns said.
Burns said teachers in Texas deserve better.
"Public education is the pathway out of poverty – and it's the door opener for kids, especially disadvantaged kids," Burns said.
"Children are our future leaders, and if they don't get a good foundation when they're in K-12 grades then it's going be really hard for them to be successful as adults," Halifax said.
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