AISD board extends staff contracts to 3 years



Posted on February 24, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 25 at 10:02 AM

AUSTIN -- On Monday night the Austin Independent School District board voted to reinstate three-year contracts from one-year contracts for professional staff members.

Members of Education Austin spent the morning making signs to support their cause.

"For almost 47 years since 1967, this district has operated on a multi-year contract," Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, said. "It's a way to show employees that we respect you, that we're committed to you, that we know you'll grow in the profession."

In 2011, the state made drastic funding cuts to public education. AISD lost $60 million in funding and as a result, eliminated 1,100 positions and told teachers they would have one-year contracts.

A consultation agreement shows Education Austin, the Austin Association of Public School Administrators and the district all agreed to the one-year contracts and to look into reinstating three-year contracts when AISD reached a better place financially.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says she's in favor of three-year contracts, but the district still hasn't recovered from budget cuts.

"Things don't look better," Castarphen said. 

She also added the amount of money AISD has to repay the state due to a decreasing student population is set to double and to continue to increase through 2017.

"One-year versus three-year reduces our liability. There's a difference in saying you're going to spend $300-ish million on positions and $970 million looking out three years," Castarphen said.

"This is really about trying to manage the amount of liabilities, financial liabilities we're putting on a system that's already fiscally fragile and has the most bleak financial landscape you could possibly ask for that this system has never seen before," she added.

During the school board meeting teachers and parents spoke in support of reinstating three year contracts, including Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez who's son is an AISD student.

"When we treat our teachers fairly, we have a better education outcome for our students, and we have a better outcome for our community," Martinez said.

However, some sided with the board.

"We would all love to have three-year contracts, but we agree that one-year contracts continue to be an appropriate and responsible budget strategy in the face of this new round of severe financial challenges," said Cathryn Mitchell, AISD principal and president of Austin Association of Public School Administrators.

After taking time to talk about the decision on the record, five out of the nine board members said they stand with the opinions expressed by the community and educators, voting to reinstate three-year contracts.

Other Central Texas school districts offer only one-year contracts, as do all of the major urban school districts across the state