PREMONT, Texas — Teachers in the Premont Independent School District had reason to smile Tuesday as school trustees passed a new budget for the school year that includes a big raise for teachers.

It's all thanks to the passage of House Bill 3 in the Texas legislature, which provides property tax relief -- taxpayers will see a 14-cent reduction per $100 dollar valuation in their property tax -- as well as additional compensation for teachers.

What the law mandated was that 30-percent of any new money a district receives has to be earmarked for compensation.

Teachers with less than five years of experience will receive a 9-percent increase in pay, and teachers who have taught more than six years will receive a 14-15 percent increase.

Superintendent Steve Van Matre said the teachers have earned that compensation and it helps level the playing field.

"When you pay teachers what they are worth, you are going to attract quality, and what I learned a long time ago was people who really make the difference in student performance were the teachers in the classrooms, so when we take care of them we are directly and indirectly taking care of our students."

Van Matre said he was one of three superintendents to be invited by the governor for the bill signing. He also said the district had a 14-percent enrollment growth, which is really unheard of in a small rural district. 80 additional students showed up from what they ended the year with.

In Texas the money follows the students, which means more funding and more programming.

The district is also looking forward to moving into a brand new Early College Academy, which is the first new school built in Premont since 1971.

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