SEGUIN, Texas — Teachers in Seguin ISD are coming back to a school with a little more pep in their step this year. Thanks to House Bill 3, they're receiving a pay raise and other benefits from the district.

In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill that provides more money for classrooms and increases teacher compensation.

Seguin ISD Superintendent Matthew Gutierrez said the school board unanimously voted to approve employee salary increases during the July 30 meeting. Under the plan, Gutierrez said teachers will receive nearly a 7 percent increase in pay. They will also increase the starting teacher salary from $49,000 to $51,000. 

Sheila Ramirez teaches first grade at Rodriguez Elementary School. As she sets up her classroom for the first day, she can't help but smile.

"I'm happy that they realize teachers spend a lot of their own money for their students," she said. "We work very hard and it's wonderful to be recognized and for other people to understand our struggles."

In addition, the district is will increase the insurance contribution from $315 to $368 to help employees who participate in the Seguin ISD health insurance plan.

The district is also providing teachers with a $200 stipend to go toward the out-of-pocket cost for classroom supplies and materials.

In her eight years as a teacher, Ramirez said the most she's ever spent on her classroom was about $2,000. "About two years ago, I started in a brand new school that we opened," she said. "I spent that in the first couple months. But the kids loved it and appreciated it, so it was worth it."

Ramirez said she wants her students to feel like her classroom is their second home. "The students spend a lot of time here and we spend a lot of time here," she said. "I just try to make the room as warm and inviting as possible, and sometimes that does take a bit more funds."

Superintendent Gutierrez said these positive changes are meant to show teachers how much they're valued by the district.

"We, as a team, shut down central office and go help teachers set up their classrooms. We did that today and last year," he said. "One of the things we noticed was that teachers were walking in the doors with bags of items that they had purchased to start the school year. We wanted to think of a creative way to support our teachers."

Gutierrez hopes to continue the classroom stipend in the years ahead. "We're certainly competing with our neighboring districts," he said. "We want to make sure our salaries are competitive, but it's also providing additional dollars to support health care coverage. Things like that and the classroom stipend are certainly making Seguin ISD more attractive."

Even if House Bill 3 didn't pass, Gutierrez said they planned on increasing teacher salaries. The passing of this bill allowed them give more than they expected. 

"We've been in a very healthy financial situation in Seguin ISD," Gutierrez said. 

The 2019-2020 salary increases will be effective in the September 2019 payroll. 

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