AUSTIN, Texas — It is a hard time to be a teacher in Texas, according to Austin ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year Kari Johnston. She loves her job but admits she's "overburdened and underpaid."
"We live paycheck to paycheck, and so there's not, as far as vacations or doing extra things, that's just not a possibility for us," Johnston said.
Several Central Texas school districts like Thrall, Hutto and Del Valle ISDs are calling for more funding for public schools.
Since 2019, the standard allocation for educating a student is $6,160 annually. One school finance bill – House Bill 100 – would increase the amount of money schools get per student by $140 over two years. It passed the House last week and goes to the Senate next.
But Austin ISD Chief Financial Officer Eduardo Ramos said that's not enough.
"What they really need is at least a $900 increase," he said. "We cut 600 positions last year just to balance our budget this year because of timing with the legislative session. We want to make sure that we make an aggressive move to take care of our employees, and so we are looking at proposing a deficit budget for the next school year."
Austin ISD is considering a pay raise proposal: up to $4 per hour flat raises for hourly workers, bringing their minimum hourly rate to $20 an hour, and a 7% increase for teachers, librarians, counselors, instructional coaches and special education-related services. It could cost over $65 million to do this but it would put the district at a deficit of $54 million.
"We know that we have to invest in our employees in order to retain them. They are struggling to live in Austin and the district that they work in," Ramos said.
They are making moves to retain teachers like Johnston who does not want to stray from what she says is her calling.
"My goal is to stay in my school and my campus and my community until I retire, but that is becoming extremely hard," Johnston said.