New Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams will get a salary bump of about $29,000 over his predecessor, the governor's office confirmed Friday.
Gov. Rick Perry has set Williams' salary at $215,000, about 15 percent above the amount appropriated in the agency's 2012-13 budget for the position — and the $186,300 that former TEA chief Robert Scott took home last year.
“This is an appropriate salary for Commissioner Williams considering the experience and leadership he brings to this agency and the importance of overseeing the education of millions of Texas school children,” said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for the governor.
The Legislature approves the education commissioner's salary as a line item in the agency's section of the budget each session, but the governor has the authority to change that compensation within a certain range if he sees fit. For Williams' position, that goes from a minimum of $186,300 to $292,000.
A former general counsel to the Republican Party of Texas and a longtime presence in Texas Republican politics, Williams resigned from his position on Texas Railroad Commission in 2011 to run for the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. He lost the Republican primary to Wes Riddle and Roger Williams, who ultimately prevailed in a runoff. He served more than a decade on the regulatory body that oversees the state's oil and natural gas industry.
A position he held in the civil rights division of President George H.W. Bush's U.S. Department of Education is his only official previous experience in the realm of education policy, though during his political career he has been outspoken against racial preferences in college admissions and in favor of private school vouchers. Both issues — the former because of a pending U.S. Supreme Court case against the University of Texas at Austin and the latter during the 2013 legislative session — promise to be broadly discussed in the coming months.
Williams' background makes his appointment a shift in leadership for the agency. His immediate predecessor Robert Scott, was a longtime TEA official and adviser to Perry on education issues. Before Scott, all previous commissioners were former superintendents or school board members.
He also takes over at a time when the TEA has lost a third of its workforce since 2011 because of budget cuts. Amid a rocky transition to a new student assessment and school accountability system, the state is also facing six lawsuits over the way it funds public schools following a more than $5 billion reduction to public education funding during the last legislative session.