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Austin ISD to phase out 250 positions amid budget talks

"There is no way to come up with $87 million without cutting staff," Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD school leaders will phase out 250 positions to balance next year's budget.

The district said it wants to reallocate a lot of the money it would save with the changes back to employees via wage increases.

The district plans to prioritize higher hourly pay and teacher base pay. It also wants to allocate the money to more planning time for teachers.

"Our district has not had a balanced budget in over five years," said Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde. "When you spend more and have more staff, you will have a deficit."

Elizalde stressed the importance of not dipping into the district's savings again. For several years, enrollment has declined, meaning the district gets less funding and the budget is harder to balance.

"If we continue to do that, we will go bankrupt by the year 2024-25," she said. "This has a solution, and it's a hard one, and that is I have to cut staff. We have to, and there is no way to come up with $87 million without cutting staff."

Austin ISD hasn't said which positions exactly will be cut, but when talking about the budget previously, Elizalde has said she wants to avoid cuts that affect classroom learning.

The move follows a discussion at a board information session on Thursday night, Feb. 10. To listen to the presentation regarding the budget, tune to 3:49:00 in the Facebook Live below:

Some educators, like Alyssa Potasznik, said they need more support.

"I am to the point where I worry about my ability to make it through the year," Potasznik said.

After 12 years as an educator, Potasznik is leaving after this year. She added that she appreciates what the district is trying to do but, with the pandemic, the issues teachers were already facing have gotten worse. 

"The pay increase does not come close to making up for the reduction in planning time, combined with the increase in cost of living, especially in the Austin area," Potasznik said. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Feb. 23, Elizalde asked the community for support.

"We are going to have to struggle, and I need your help," Elizalde said. "I need you to help others through the struggle."

During Feb. 10's board meeting, AISD leaders discussed the priorities for the 2023 budget.

The budget priorities include:

  • Increase hourly pay to $16 an hour for classified employees and bus drivers
  • Increase teacher base pay by $1,000
  • Increase teacher salaries by 2%
  • Evaluate central office budgets
  • Reduce overall staffing due to declining enrollment

"We have to think about every employee in the district," Ken Zarifis said.

Zarifis is the president of Education Austin, the labor union representing district employees. He said they've been working to get the minimum wage up to $20 an hour.

"I think we have to really be aspirational about what we want our employees to be able to earn. An hourly employee, a bus driver, a custodian, how in the world do they survive in this city? I just have no idea. We have to do better by them," Zarifis said.

The budget is expected to be approved in June.

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