New educator pool increases, more minorities seeking teaching positions

District recruiters have reason for optimism as they hit the hiring trail. The pool of prospective educators in the Texas teacher preparation pipeline continued to rebound for 2014‒15. The uptick indicates that college students with an interest in teaching are increasingly choosing teaching as a career and finding new jobs in Texas schools.
A total of 25,504 people earned teaching certificates in 2013‒14, up from 22,453 in 2012‒13 (an increase of 3,051 prospective teachers). Also, more of those seeking teaching jobs found them in the 2014‒15 school year (19,972 vs. 17,688 in 2013‒14, an increase of 2,284 working teachers). The teacher supply picture still has not recovered to 2007‒08 levels, when 29,934 prospective teachers earned certificates and 23,776 of them got jobs.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provides us with teacher supply data and always notes that the figures are not exact but are a close approximation of the initial certificates awarded and subsequent employment.

A serious drop in both the number of people getting teaching certificates and those getting jobs in 2011‒12 was cause for concern about the future of the Texas teacher job pool. That drop coincided with a $5.4 billion cut in public education funding for 2010‒11 and 2011‒12 that resulted in school districts cutting personnel costs and laying teachers off. Many districts also instituted hiring freezes or restricted hiring and only filled positions deemed essential.
The cause for alarm about where Texas would find its future teachers appears to be a thing of the past. “Now that funding is restored and people see that jobs are opening up, we’re seeing people coming back,” said Tim Miller, director of educator preparation at the Texas Education Agency. He added that shortages are all district specific: one district may never have a problem filling a teacher vacancy while others might struggle.
Districts in high oil and gas production areas have had a particularly hard time keeping and retaining teachers, who can make much more working in the oil fields. The cost of living and availability of housing also have a direct effect on a district’s ability to attract new teachers, particularly those without roots in a particular area.

Preparation routes and shortage areas

Texas alternative certification programs produced 43 percent of teachers earning their initial teaching certificate in 2014‒15, outpacing university undergraduate programs by approximately 3 percent. This data is consistent with that provided for 2013‒14.

Alternative certification programs continue to be a vital part of the Texas teacher preparation picture, in spite of the fact that some Texas districts hire only teachers that come to teaching through traditional programs. School HR administrators would not be able to fill all teacher vacancies without the teachers that come through alternative routes.
The U.S. Department of Education has approved TEA’s annual teacher shortage area report. Hiring managers are well acquainted with the list of the toughest teaching jobs to fill:
  • Bilingual/English as a Second Language
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Computer Science
  • English as a Second Language
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Elementary and Secondary Special Education
The good news, according to Miller, is that new teacher certifications were up overall in all shortage areas. That said, the increases are modest, so hiring managers aren’t likely to see much difference when they try to fill positions in these areas. Certifications decreased in one hard-to-fill area not on the official shortage list, Languages other than English (LOTE).

Teacher supply and student enrollment

Texas recruiters will have a larger pool of teachers from which to hire, but is our available teacher supply keeping up with student enrollment growth? Texas currently has approximately 5.1 million students in public schools. Student enrollment increases about 1.5 percent each year. Miller noted that teacher hiring is up 1.8 percent, so right now, the teacher supply is keeping up with student enrollment demands. “When we’re talking about more kids in seats, we want to make sure we have enough teachers in classrooms,” Miller said. “It was pretty close. We’d rather that it not be that close.”

Teacher attrition

Miller also provided a look at teacher attrition, another important component of the state’s overall teacher supply. For all years other than in 2011‒12, teacher new hires have exceeded teacher attrition. Education researchers have bemoaned the potential for massive teacher retirements for years. While attrition has been higher overall since 2010‒11, it hasn’t spiked in a way that should cause recruiters to have grave concerns about filling the positions of retiring educators.

Teacher diversity

Texas school districts (and districts nationwide) are always focused on hiring a diverse group of teachers to match the diversity of their student bodies. It’s a difficult challenge given the number of minorities in the teacher pipeline.
The good news for Texas is that more minorities are earning Texas teaching certificates. In 2013‒14, 10.8 percent (2,645) of those earning teaching certificates were African-Americans, up from 9.6 (2,178) percent in 2012‒13 and 7.9 (1,614) percent in 2011‒12. Hispanics/Latinos are also earning certificates at an increased rate: from 24 percent in 2011‒12 (4,870) to 27 percent (6,649) in 2013‒14. Whites earned the most certificates by far (57.9 percent/14,220), but Texas’ status as a minority-majority state seems to be having a positive effect in terms of the diversity of prospective teachers here.
African-Americans were most likely to come to the profession through an alternative certification program. Hispanics/Latinos preferred university undergraduate teacher preparation programs.

Expanding the teacher pool

Outgoing Education Commissioner Michael Williams recently said in an interview that “…the biggest threat to Texas schools is the state’s teacher shortage.” He said it’s crucial for the state to increase the size of the teacher pool and ensure that teachers get the training they need. He stopped short of offering specifics.
Miller noted that TEA’s plans in this area are very general right now. The agency is working with all teacher preparation programs to improve the overall quality of teacher training in the state through increased communication and by providing “best practice” training.
In terms of retention, Miller said the state’s new teacher evaluation model, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) is designed to help teachers grow, provide them with useful training, and keep them in the profession longer.

Average teacher salaries tick up, pay increases steady for 2015‒16

–For the 2015‒16 school year, average teacher pay increases in Texas remain unchanged from last year, according to results from the annual TASB Teacher Compensation in Texas Public Schools survey.

The average Texas teacher salary rose to $52,090, an increase of 2 percent over last year’s average of $51,041. Average teacher salaries have grown steadily since 2011, when salaries dipped due to education funding shortfalls.

The average salary for beginning Texas teachers is $38,828—38 percent above the starting 2015‒16 state minimum teacher salary. Forty-five percent of responding districts (276) have an entry-level salary of $40,000 or greater. Ten percent of districts have an entry-level salary of $50,000 or more.

About 90 percent of teachers in the state received a base salary increase for 2015‒16. In districts that gave raises (including experience-based step increases), the average pay increase for returning teachers was 2.8 percent, the same as last year. Teacher pay raises lag 2000‒01 to 2009‒10 levels, when increases averaged nearly 4 percent per year.

Looking at pay increases by community type as classified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), districts in major suburban communities gave teachers the largest average increase (3 percent). Rural districts—the largest group in the state—gave a 2.9 percent pay raise on average, while major urban districts provided their teachers with a 2.7 percent raise on average.

Of the teacher shortage stipends surveyed, districts pay math (332 districts) and science (307 districts) stipends most frequently. The highest stipend amounts on average are in the areas of bilingual education and math: $2,784 and $2,650, respectively.

For 2015‒16, 614 Texas school districts, representing some 90 percent of the estimated total population of teachers in Texas public schools, are reported in the survey data.

HR Services members can access the full 2015‒16 Teacher Salary Survey data in DataCentral. Use the data to create your own custom comparison reports with the most up-to-date teacher salaries, hiring schedules, teaching shortage stipends and incentives, and more. A summary report (PDF) of the final results of the survey will be available in January 2016.

The TASB Extra-Duty Stipend Survey, the last salary survey of 2015‒16, wraps up Dec. 11. Be sure your district’s data is included! Visit our Salary Survey Web page to download the survey.

Districts continue to see health insurance premiums rise

Most Texas school districts (90 percent) saw their health insurance costs rise in 2015‒16, according to a new survey conducted by TASB HR Services. And, of the districts that saw increases, more than 70 percent passed the additional costs on to employees.


Ninety percent of responding districts participate in a TRS-ActiveCare PPO or HMO plan. Other districts are self-insured, fully insured, or partially self-insured.
2015‒16 TRS-ActiveCare PPO plan rates increased across the board. TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD (high deductible) saw a 4.9 percent increase to the employee-only rate and employee-plus-family premiums rose 7.5 percent. TRS-ActiveCare Select rate increases were similar to the 1-HD plan. TRS-ActiveCare 2 premiums increased 10 percent for the employee-only tier; employee-plus-family premiums rose nearly 15 percent. TRS-ActiveCare HMO rate changes varied widely; Allegian (formerly Valley Baptist) costs increased about 3 percent at every coverage tier, while Scott & White costs increased by an average of 11 percent.
Last year several noteworthy changes occurred to TRS-ActiveCare, including the discontinuation of TRS-ActiveCare 3 and the introduction of TRS-ActiveCare Select, a moderately-priced option. Aetna was also named the benefits administrator for TRS-ActiveCare. With these changes, rates for some coverage plans were frozen last year (i.e., TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD employee-only coverage).
For the purposes of this survey, participants were asked to provide monthly premium rates and district contribution amounts for the employee-only and employee-plus-family plans with the highest number of employees enrolled in the district. The median district contribution amount for both plan categories is unchanged from last year.

According to the survey, the median employee-only total monthly premium is $341 ($4,092 annually); for the employee-plus-family tier, the total monthly premium is $1,231 ($14,772 annually). Both rates are equivalent to the TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD plan. In comparison to last year’s rates, this is an increase of 4.9 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
The employees’ portion of the total monthly cost is $91 for the employee-only plan and $996 for employees with family coverage. Similar to last year, only 15 percent of districts (35) reported paying 100 percent of the employee-only insurance premium.
Other national surveys show smaller benefits cost increases when looking across the U.S. According to a recent survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET), the average monthly premium for employee-only is $521 ($6,251 annually) and the average family premium is $1,462 ($17,545 annually)–a 4-percent average increase from last year. It extends a 10-year trend of moderate increases in national health care costs (compared to 1999 to 2005 when premiums grew an average of 11 percent annually).
Of particular note, the Kaiser/HRET national survey also found that deductibles have rapidly risen over the past five years in the U.S.—from a yearly average of $900 in 2010 to $1,318 this year—increasing almost three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages. In comparison, TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD, Select, and 2 plan deductibles remain unchanged from last year. For example, ActiveCare 2 individual ($1,000) and family ($3,000) deductibles have remained the same since 2013‒14.
District participants were also asked if they implemented other cost-saving measures. Responses included onsite flu shots/immunizations (71 percent of districts), telehealth services (60 percent), health savings accounts (HSAs) (51 percent), gap medical insurance (40 percent), and workplace wellness programs (23 percent), as well as onsite staff health clinics, health risk assessments, and onsite medical screenings, among other responses.
Data was collected from 238 Texas public school district participants as of Oct. 31, 2015. HR Services member districts can still participate in the 2015‒16 health insurance premiums survey by visiting HR Surveys in DataCentral. A customized report of results is available for download in DataCentral upon completion of the survey.

Is relief on the horizon for bus driver shortages in Texas?

An improving economy coupled with explosive growth in Texas oil and gas operations have exacerbated school bus driver shortages in Texas. Bus drivers were enticed to the oil fields by substantially higher salaries—salaries school districts could not match. The oil and gas boom has eased, but driver shortages aren’t going away.
A 2015 School Bus Fleet magazine survey found that only 6 percent of national school bus contracting companies reported having enough drivers, with 28 percent saying they are at severe shortage levels.
A recent report from the U.S. Departments of Education, Transportation, and Labor predict this trend will continue over the next decade. The report says that school bus drivers will account for 330,699 transportation job openings nationwide during this time, second only to tractor-trailer truck drivers. Intuitively, bus and truck mechanics will also continue to be in high demand, with an expected 86,850 job openings.

Raising driver pay

What are districts doing to find bus drivers? First and foremost, raising driver pay. Looking at trends in median bus driver salaries in Texas over the last three years, a correlation can be seen between the oil-rich areas of the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin zones and the Education Service Centers that serve them.
In descending order, the ESCs that saw the biggest increases in their districts’ median driver salaries during this time were 14, 15, 17, 18, and 3. Bus drivers in these five regions got an average pay increase of $1.66, compared to just $.65 for the rest of the state. As can be seen below, Region 14 led on pay in a big way, with an overall median increase of $2.45 an hour.

Largest increases in bus driver pay by Region
since the 2013‒14 school year

Region 18 Midland +$1.26
Region 3 Victoria +$1.27
Region 17 Lubbock +$1.40
Region 15 San Angelo +$1.92
Region 14 Abilene +$2.45

The oil business can be fickle, and increasing driver pay has long-term consequences for school districts. With that in mind, some districts like Cotulla ISD (Region 11) gave drivers a stipend ($2-per-hour) to combat constant attrition and avoid making long-term budgetary commitments.

Other options

While increasing pay is an important step to alleviate driver shortages, districts have other options to consider.
Districts like Pearland ISD attract and retain drivers by spreading their pay over 12 months, offering bonuses, and guaranteeing six-hour workdays. In Clear Creek ISD, bus drivers are guaranteed a five-and-a-half hour workday offered benefits including group medical, vision, dental and life insurance; and can earn $100 for recommending someone else who is subsequently hired as a bus driver.
Districts should also let potential applicants know about other perks, including no required weekend work, no cost for training and development, summers off, and extra work hours for those that want them.

Job seekers use mobile devices to search job openings, apply for jobs

If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, you may be missing out on applications from good candidates. Kevin Walker, director of employer insights for job search engine Indeed, says mobile technology has already disrupted the status quo for employers and job seekers.
Just how mobile-dependent have we become? Smartphone usage is up nearly 400 percent since 2010, and tablet use is up more than 1700 percent in the same time period, according to web analytics company comScore. Around three-quarters of Millennials and Generation Xers (a significant chunk of the current and future workforce) use a mobile device to access Indeed to search for job openings.
That means you can (and should) expect that job seekers are using mobile devices to search for and view your job postings. How many hurdles are they encountering on the way? HR administrators should make an effort to rid their hiring processes of those hurdles. “If you can’t engage with a mobile job seeker with your content or job postings, you’re losing out,” Walker said.
Some of those hurdles include the following:

  • Asking job seekers to submit an application later from a desktop.
  • Asking job seekers to attach a résumé when applying, which creates formatting and compatibility issues between operating systems.
  • Asking users to type in their résumé information, which is a challenge with a mobile device.
Employers that succeed in making their application process mobile-friendly will have a strategic advantage. “…You can address a market that your competitors can’t, and likely make placements that your competitors can’t,” Walker said.
The mobile advantage extends to hourly workers because most service organizations still rely on paper applications to fill hourly positions. The best hourly employees are often hired in less than a week, so there’s little time to process a paper application and get it to someone with hiring authority. According to Joshua Ortega, chief operating officer and cofounder of Montreal-based WorkJam, “These companies may be missing out on the most skilled prospects…Highly skilled workers don’t stay unemployed for long. Enforcing a sluggish application process encourages strong candidates to look elsewhere.”
To get a feel for how well your job postings meet candidate needs, HR administrators should check the amount of time users typically spend on their job site. If prospective users think what they see is relevant, they’ll spend more time on the site. If they don’t, they’ll leave your site quickly (in 10 seconds or even less). This “bounce rate” is a metric you can track to see if your postings are of interest to job seekers.
There are other simple steps you can take, including ensuring that your career content site is readable, that applications are easy to complete on a mobile device, and that your site is optimized for mobile searches.
—“The Mobile Moment Has Passed: What Recruiters Need to Know,” by Roy Maurer, SHRM online, Nov. 2, 2015.
—“In Focus: 90% Now Access Facebook from Smartphones,” by SHRM online staff, Nov. 9, 2015.
—“Paper Applications Keep Hiring Practices Stuck in the Past,” by Roy Maurer, SHRM online, Nov. 13, 2015.

HR Extras

TRS changes rule to help retirees earn full pension benefit in final contract year

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) board approved a rule change to help retirees whose benefit calculation would be harmed by its adoption of a “standardized school year,” from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.
In their retirement year, the new rule allows the final average salary on which an educator’s pension is based to be calculated using the highest total compensation received during a 12-month period within his or her last 14 consecutive months on the job. The change corrects the mismatch between the employee’s contract year and TRS’ “standardized school year,” allowing teachers to retire at the end of their contract year rather than retiring in August to get their full pension benefits.
The rule is effective for the 2015‒16 year.

Late arrival of final overtime rule could result in short implementation period

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) won’t release its final rule on who is eligible for overtime until late 2016, which would result in a much shorter than usual span—30 to 60 days—between final publication of the rule and its effective date.
The proposed rule was released on June 30 and generated more than 250,000 comments during the summer comment period. “Frankly, having a final rule before late summer or early fall [of 2016] was probably an optimistic prediction, given the volume of comments filed and the number of other U.S. DOL regulatory initiatives,” said Alfred Robinson Jr., an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Washington, D.C., and a former acting administrator of the Wage and Hour Division.
Employers have been urged to prepare for different scenarios that may come to pass under the rule so they can quickly reclassify their workforce, rather than risk noncompliance.
Some may delay action, hoping that a Republican prevails in the November presidential election. A Republican would be more likely to revoke the rule. Another possibility is a phased-in effective date. The more changes the final rule makes, the more likely the DOL and Obama Administration (or a Democratic successor) would consider phasing it in.

Records retention schedule revised

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission recently revised the Retention Schedule for Records Common to all Local Governments (Schedule GR), adding a number of new categories of documents, clarifying some of the previous retention periods, and making some changes to the existing retention periods.
Some of the additions include records management records (i.e., records of requests to transfer documents, records management plans, and the name of the records management officer, etc.); subpoenas for cases in which the school district is not a party; and documentation of the release of records not covered by the Public Information Act, such as employment verifications. Americans with Disabilities Act documentation, organizational charts, employee directory information, and disaster preparedness and recovery plans have also been added. The retention period for workers’ compensation claim records for self-insured districts have been differentiated from those of districts that are not self-insured.
The updated Schedule GR can be found on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission Website. Changes that affect HR records have also been incorporated into the Sample Records Retention Schedule in the Personnel Records Section of the HR Library.

NCTQ unveils college search tool for students with an interest in teaching

The National Council on Teaching Quality (NCTQ) recently launched the PathtoTeach Website, which is billed as a “consumer guide to colleges of education.” PathtoTeach attempts to provide aspiring teachers with information to help them find the best teacher training options from more than 1,100 colleges and universities and 85 alternative certification programs. Additional programs will be added next year.
Aspiring teachers can compare programs by location, tuition costs, enrollment, preparation to teach in different content areas, student teaching quality, and admissions selectivity.
NCTQ has pushed for reforms in teacher preparation programs and generated controversy for its annual ratings of those programs. Programs that don’t rate highly criticize the ratings, calling them incomplete and inaccurate. PathtoTeach is based on the same rating system.

Prepare to meet ACA reporting requirements in January

By Jan. 31, 2016, employers with 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalents must complete Form 1095-C for each employee and distribute those forms to employees to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that many employers are unaware and unprepared for the coming reporting responsibilities.
TASB can help. In April, we conducted a detailed webinar on ACA reporting requirements. HR administrators can access a recording of that webinar and listen with an unlimited number of colleagues an unlimited number of times for up to five days. The cost is $75.
TASB Legal e-Source also includes a variety of resources to help districts understand and comply with ACA reporting requirements.

Cárdenas granted honorary membership award

The American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA) recently awarded an honorary membership to former Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) Executive Director Melva Cárdenas. According to AASPA, honorary memberships are awarded “…to persons who have distinguished themselves in school personnel work.” Cárdenas retired from TASPA in June.

Inside HR Services

Extra-Duty Stipend Survey closing soon

Be sure to submit your district’s 2015–16 data for the Extra-Duty Stipend Survey so that the results are available to you for comparison in DataCentral. Visit our Website to download the survey today. The deadline is Dec. 11.

2015–16 Teacher/District Personnel Salary Survey data in DataCentral

New 2015–16 Teacher/District Personnel survey data is now available in DataCentral for all HR Services members. You can use your district’s reported teacher survey data to create custom market reports on salaries, hiring schedules, teaching field stipends and incentives (e.g., math and science), and more. In addition, District Personnel (nonteacher) pay data is also available for more than 120 common school district jobs.

Welcome our newest staff members

Please welcome Keith McLemore and Catherine Rubiera to the HR Services staff. Keith joined us in November as an associate consultant. He provides analytical support for consulting services and assist districts with compensation planning and development. Keith received his bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and a master’s degree from Texas Tech, both with a focus on research analysis and design. He has 12 years of experience traveling the state supporting public educators with Texas’ largest professional educator association.
Catherine Rubiera joined the HR Services team in December. She assists with the analysis of salary survey data and provides analytical support for consulting services. She taught high school math, including AP Statistics, for 12 years in Florida prior to joining HR Services. Catherine has a bachelor’s in mathematics from Florida Atlantic University.

Join us at TASPA/TAEE Winter Conference

Please stop by the HR Services table at the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA)/Texas Association for Employment in Education (TAEE) 2015 Winter Conference on Dec. 10–11. Staff will be there to great you and our publications and posters will be on display. We also invite you to come to the following sessions presented by HR Services’ staff:
Thursday, Dec. 10

Staffing for Achievement
10:15–11:15 a.m.
Presenters: Zachary Hobbs and Marcia Kirk

Extra, Extra—Hear All About What the Department of Labor Has Been Doing!
1:30–2:30 p.m.
Presenter: Ann Patton

Effective Interview Questions for Finding the Best Teachers
1:30–2:30 p.m.
Presenter: April Mabry and Ronda Bauman

Communicating Effectively About Pay
2:45–3:45 p.m.
Presenter: Amy Campbell

Friday, Dec 11:

Teacher Pay: Envision a Better Way
8:30–9:30 a.m.
Presenter: Cindy Clegg

HR Services offers many training opportunities in Austin, regionally at ESCs, and through webinars. A calendar of our 2015‒16 offerings are listed on the HR Services online training page. You will find additional information and can register for upcoming training events.

HR Exchange takes a winter break

Happy holidays to all our members from everyone here in HR Services! Like districts, we will enjoy an extended break at the end of December. Our offices will be closed Dec. 24 to Jan. 4. Because of the lengthy break, we don’t publish HR Exchange in January. The newsletter will be back in your e-mail box the first week of February.

Check for time-sensitive notices during your holiday break

During the holiday break, it’s important to make arrangements to check district mail for time-sensitive unemployment and workers’ compensation notices and forms. If you wait to respond until after the break, you may be subject to a penalty or waive important rights to contest benefits. To avoid those problems, be sure that someone takes a few minutes each day to check the mail.

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Are you on Twitter? Follow HR Services to get the latest HR news and information.

Q&A: Moonlighting while on family and medical leave

Q: Can an employee work another job while on family and medical leave?
A: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not prohibit an employee from working a second job (i.e., moonlighting) while on leave from the district. However, federal regulations state that if an employer has a uniformly applied policy prohibiting outside employment, it may continue to apply the policy to an employee on family and medical leave (FML) (825.216(e)).
Provisions regarding nonschool employment are addressed in Policy DBD(LOCAL)—Employment Requirements and Restrictions: Conflict of Interest. If this policy states that an employee cannot work while on approved leave, you can apply this restriction to FML leave.
If the policy uses typical language that only requires an employee to disclose any outside employment that creates a potential conflict of interest with assigned duties and responsibilities, the district cannot restrict an employee from working another job while on FML unless the leave was fraudulently obtained. Thus, an employee that meets the criteria for taking FML may take leave and work a second job if he or she is medically able. If the leave is to take care of a family member, then the employee could meet the caregiver duties for a portion of the day and be available to work an outside job at night.