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Education Austin hosts rally demanding higher pay for AISD teachers, staff

Members of Austin ISD's teacher union spoke during the board meeting and said AISD's efforts to balance the budget hurt essential staff.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, Austin ISD (AISD) employees demanded change and pushed for the district to increase pay for all school staff next year.

Education Austin, the union representing AISD teachers and staff, hosted a rally called "At What Cost" outside of the district headquarters where teachers, bus drivers, parents and students took part and then spoke at the school board meeting.

Ken Zarifis, the president of Education Austin, said the district is not listening to their needs and that they're not going to stop until they get what they want. 

RELATED: Austin ISD board members continue to discuss plans for 2022-23 budget

"At what cost will they balance their budget? It's on the backs of teachers and workers who are the ones that work directly with the kids. You can't separate the two. If you're not taking care of the workers that work directly with kids, you're not taking care of kids," Zarifis said. 

One of their biggest fights is for higher pay. Members of AISD's teacher union said the district's efforts to balance its budget hurt essential staff.

The school board proposed 2% raises for teachers, which they'll vote on in June, but Zarifis said that's not enough.

RELATED: Report: Austin ISD looking to cut more than 600 jobs

"It's not just teachers. It's teachers, librarians, it's counselors, custodians, the front office help, everybody carried this district. AISD needs to respect them. It's so vital for their morale so that we keep people here in the district and they don't go to other districts," Zarifis added.

Educators and other district employees said they don't make a living wage in Austin and that they need more. 

RELATED: Austin ISD board members continue to discuss plans for 2022-23 budget

Nieshon Sandlin has been a bus driver for more than 20 years and she said it's time to reconsider what they're paying all employees.

"I have a worry that I'm going to wake up one day and not really be able to fulfill my job because I'm not going to be able to have no gas in my car, a roof over my head or food on the table for my kids," Sandlin said.

The education community made their voices heard at Thursday night's board meeting. 

"I understand there's recapture, understand COVID, I understand inflation, but the schools are falling apart and it doesn't feel like anybody cares," one person said during the public comment portion of the board meeting.

AISD board members did not discuss the budget at the meeting. They won't finalize the plan, which would include the proposed 2% raises, until June.

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