While the career ladder system ceased to exist in 1993, some public school employees are still entitled to additional pay if certain conditions are met.
A Brief History
Texas’ career ladder for public school teachers and librarians was established in 1984 during the 68th Legislative Session via House Bill 72. Along with the introduction of a minimum salary schedule, the bill created a four step “ladder” by which teachers and librarians could advance to earn additional pay. When career ladder ended, hold harmless protections for teachers and librarians assigned to the career ladder as of August 31, 1993 became effective. These protections were amended in 1995 and continue to be in effect today. While other details of the original career ladder now are mostly a historical footnote, the hold harmless protections must still be used in pay determination for a limited number of employees.
There are two major stipulations for continued entitlement to career ladder supplements as long as the teacher remains employed by the same district.
- A teacher or librarian on the career ladder on August 31, 1993 is entitled to at least the same gross monthly salary the teacher or librarian received for the 1994–1995 school year according to Texas Education Code (TEC) § 21.402(f).
- Employees who were on level two or three are entitled to placement on the minimum salary schedule according to the guidelines of TEC § 21.403(d), whereby an employee on level two is placed one experience increment higher than they otherwise would have been placed, and an employee on level three is placed two levels higher.
Increases to the minimum salary schedule make it extremely unlikely that a teacher or librarian would be impacted by the first condition. However, TASB HR Services continues to encounter districts with employees entitled to advanced placement on the minimum salary schedule (see second bullet above).
Some districts continue to pay flat stipend amounts in lieu of placing teachers either one or two levels above their actual experience. Most likely these districts are seeking to differentiate pay for career ladder recipients whose experience exceeds the district’s hiring schedule. Other districts pay the stipend even though their hiring schedule extends out considerably and includes some, or all, career ladder recipients. Districts paying a stipend should ensure the stipend is at least as much as the amount the individual is entitled to by statute.
New hires, including those who were entitled to the supplement in the past, are not eligible for career ladder considerations. As a result, the supplement will eventually disappear. In the meantime, it is worth reviewing the pay of covered employees to ensure compliance.
For more information on this and other compensation laws relevant to district compliance, see HR Services’ Summary of Compensation Laws in the HR Library. For community colleges, see Summary of Compensation Laws - College.
Keith McLemore joined HR Services in 2015 and assists districts with compensation planning and development. He has 17 years of experience traveling the state supporting public education employees.
McLemore received a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and a master’s degree from Texas Tech University, both with a focus on research analysis and design. He is a SHRM-CP.
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