Hourly employees in some school districts may be getting a raise in the next couple of years. A couple of weeks ago, President Bush signed into law an increase in the minimum wage. By the end of this summer, the federal minimum wage will increase from the current $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour.
Twelve months later, the federal minimum wage will increase to $6.55 per hour.
Finally, twelve months after that, the last stage of the increase becomes effective, and the federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 per hour.
In the districts that pay below the new minimum, wages will of course go up right away. Depending on how many employees are affected, those districts may have to shift funds from other uses to cover the increases.
The raise in the minimum wage means employers have to pay at least that much, but it does not require that hourly employees get a raise if they are already making more than the minimum.
It’s interesting to compare this to teacher pay increases. The state of Texas has a minimum wage for teachers – commonly known as the step scale. The legislature sets these minimum steps, but it does not set the actual wage paid by each district. Since many districts pay teachers more than the minimum step amount, an increase in that minimum does not guarantee that those teachers already making more than the minimum get a raise. So in the last 10 or 15 years, whenever the legislature raises the minimum, it has also specified that teachers should continue to receive any amount above that minimum that their individual district is paying, effectively guaranteeing a raise for all teachers, whether or not they already make above the minimum or not.
But that’s not what happened to the hourly employees affected by the federal minimum wage. The change simply ensures that the lowest paid workers get paid a little more.