AUSTIN, Texas — Some Central Texas school districts plan to give teachers a salary pay raise next school year, but some educators claim it's not enough compared to the cost of living in Austin.
Austin ISD teacher David DeLeon said he's excited for the guaranteed $1,000 bonus starting next school year, but what's not guaranteed is the 2% pay raise approved in AISD's 2021-22 budget.
Staff will only get that if the district's enrollment reaches 77,351 students by October. DeLeon said it's frustrating to see Austin's cost of living keep rising while his salary stays stagnant.
"It's sad that a profession in which it's so important to a community, to a city, to the future, to guide and mold and educate the next generation, isn't compensated in a way you think it should," said DeLeon. "If it doesn't happen, then we're going to continue to lose teachers. We're going to lose teachers, and I think it ultimately affects the quality of education as well, if you're not going to be able to attract as many people into the profession."
According to the district, pay for new-hire teachers starts at $51,000 a year and it scales up based on experience. For example, if a teacher has 30 years of experience, their salary is just over $63,000.
Lisa Pannell works in AISD's transportation department and she's been with the district for 23 years. Pannell said she feels like staff members deserve much more.
"The rents are going so high, you just can't afford to live here anymore," said Pannell. "I was hoping for more, but it is decent for what the budget can afford. At this point, they're saying that they can't afford to give us all the raises that we're looking for due to the possibility of lower enrollment."
The AISD pay increase plan was created between the school district and the teacher's union, Education Austin. Pannell said the school district at first wanted to give teachers a 1% increase, before Education Austin negotiated it to be a 2% raise. Education Austin said it was initially trying to get a 3% raise, but the enrollment issue was a concern for board members.
The salary agreement also includes:
- A one-time $1,000 payment for active, regular status, benefits-eligible staff who were employed on May 31, 2021, and remain employed through Aug. 31, 2021.
- Increasing teachers’ and librarians’ starting salary to $51,150.
- Increasing the district’s minimum wage from $13 an hour to $13.50.
- Creating a committee to look at addressing compensation inequities.
"Overall, when you look at the whole package, really considering the difficult times we're in, we think it's a very successful package. We're glad the district was willing to do it and work closely with us to see that employees were rewarded for their hard work last year and what's going to happen this year," said Education Austin President Ken Zarifis.
"On a personal note right now, trying to buy a house in Austin is just impossible on a teacher's pay," said DeLeon. "It's kind of understandable when you see staff members leave for districts that are paying more, or even seeing people choosing not to pursue a career in education, which is really upsetting because education is an incredible profession. I love being a teacher. It's so much fun, so rewarding."
DeLeon and Pannell said they hope the district invests more in teachers in the future to keep them here.
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