AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Independent School District (AISD) says teacher pay raises will be part of its 2022-23 budget proposal. Officials are also proposing to raise the district minimum wage and take steps to balance the budget.
On Monday, AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced there's no longer enough money in reserves to fill a $62 million deficit.
"So take even this year, we staff for 77,400 students, but we actualized right under 75,000 students so that means we have more teachers, more staff than the number of students we have," said Elizalde.
There is enough money to make it through the current year. The upside down assessment for the new school year also came with a message of reassurance.
"A teacher does not need to worry about their job. At the end of the day, they don’t need to worry about that. They may have to shuffle people around, ‘cause we might have to meet student needs, but everyone will be able to keep their jobs," said Elizalde.
In early December, the district announced its intention to update the master schedule for the next school year, providing teachers with more planning time and saving the district millions of dollars. After receiving feedback from families and staff, district leaders will implement the following changes:
- An eight-period block schedule that preserves electives, does an eight-period A/B block schedule for four days and one day with a straight eight-period schedule. This is what most secondary schools are already doing.
- One hour of early release each week for staff to have common planning time.
- Elementary and secondary teachers will have common planning time built into the day, which for elementary teachers will be the first time they have had this.
- This new schedule will reduce teacher vacancies, address the substitute shortage, and save $21 million.
The superintendent admits keeping her promise will not be pain free.
"When we talk about budget cuts we have to start a Central Office, since August of 2020, we have reduced approximately 60 positions which saved used right at $5 million, 4.8 million was saved beginning August 2020. We are going to more than double that at Central Office we will be reducing some additional positions that will need to add up to $11 million, almost $12 million," said Elizalde.
Keeping people is another problem for Austin ISD. To address that, the superintendent is proposing a big pay hike for support staff, positions like janitors, cafeteria workers and assistants. Hourly pay would go from $13.50 an hour to $16 an hour. "I cannot in good conscience continue to ask classified staff to come to work for $13.50," said Elizalde.
A pay raise for teachers is also being proposed to address a statewide classroom exodus. The Austin ISD plan calls for a 2% increase. There is also a proposal for a $1,000, across the board base pay bump. That’s to be more competitive with recruiting and retention. For some teachers it could equate to a pay increase of 4% or more.
"They certainly deserve more," said Elizalde.
It’s believed vacancies will prevent a larger staff reduction. Typically, Austin ISD loses 500 to 600 teachers a year through attrition and retirement.
"I don’t want any staff member to worry about losing their job at the campus level whatsoever, all of those positions we will find a way to make sure everyone keeps their job and that’s why we let everybody know before the winter break we will have the eight-period day, and we will begin cuts at central office."
Under this new pay and job plan, some classroom adjustments and staff transfers are expected. Action on the proposal by the school board is not expected until June.