Austin ISD school board unanimously approves 7% raise for teachers, counselors and librarians
The Austin ISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted Thursday to approve at least a 7% raise for teachers, counselors, librarians, instructional coaches and certain special education positions, such as speech-language pathologists. These employees will receive either a 7% raise or move up to a new step on the pay scale — whichever is higher.
The salary increases are part of the 2023-2024 compensation agreement that district officials reached with Education Austin, a union that represents AISD employees.
“Nine is my new favorite number," Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said. "A 9-0 vote is fantastic for a proposal that was really spot on to take care of employees so we can take care of kids."
The plan also includes a $4-per-hour raise for all classified staff, such as teacher assistants, parent support specialists, bus drivers, food services employees and members of the Austin ISD police department. Zarifis said it was difficult to sum up how impactful the hourly increase is.
“A $4-an-hour increase for every hourly employee in AISD — it's absolutely unprecedented, and it is probably one of the proudest moments we've had as a union in terms of worker pay,” he said. “It will change lives."
The $4 increase means that now the minimum hourly wage for classified staff is $20 per hour. That puts Austin ISD on par with Austin Community College, the City of Austin and Travis County, which all decided last year to offer a $20 minimum wage to employees.
Under the compensation agreement, certain administrative staff will receive a 5% midpoint raise, while others will get a 3% midpoint raise. With this type of raise, the percentage is applied to the middle of the salary range for an employee's position, and that amount is then added to the employee's salary.
The plan also includes funding to recruit and retain staff for hard-to-fill positions in bilingual education and special education. The district will offer $7,000 stipends for positions in both areas.
Austin ISD will also increase the base salaries of licensed specialists in school psychology and educational diagnosticians by 20%. The significant raise is part of the district’s effort to attract and retain staff who can evaluate students for disabilities. AISD has an ongoing backlog of the evaluations, which determine what special education services students are legally entitled to.
The district is facing a federal lawsuit over the backlog and the Texas Education Agency announced plans in late March to install a team to directly manage the special education department. Austin ISD officials, who appealed the proposed conservatorship, have said understaffing is a major hurdle to completing evaluations. The district has been working to fill dozens of vacancies for LSSPs and educational diagnosticians; 37 of 75 openings are filled, according to an update interim Superintendent Matias Segura sent to families this week.
Several speech-language pathologists called in to leave public comments for the board Thursday. They expressed frustration with the gulf between their raises and those of LSSPs and educational diagnosticians, especially as they’ve taken on additional responsibilities amid staffing shortages. SLPs are set to receive the $7,000 stipend and at least a 7% raise.
Overall, Austin ISD officials project the compensation package will result in a budget deficit of more than $50 million for the district. AISD Chief Financial Officer Ed Ramos told trustees last week that the district is exploring ways to bring down the deficit, such as increasing enrollment and not filling certain positions if people leave.
District officials and school board members had also been hopeful that the Texas Legislature would raise funding for public education and teachers this year. But with just over a week left in the 88th legislative session, it appears any bills to increase public school funding will fall short of both expectations and inflation.
That was on AISD School Board President Arati Singh’s mind ahead of the vote on the compensation package.
“I’m very excited to support it. I will say, though, at the same time, I have a little bit of heartburn watching what’s happening at the Legislature,” she said. “I don’t see a windfall coming our way.”
She said taking on a budget deficit, without the promise of more state funding for public education, could compel the district to tighten its belt in the years ahead.
“There’s a little risk there, but I also understand there’s a real risk if we don’t invest in our employees right now,” she said.
Austin ISD, which had more than 2,100 employees resign during the 2021-2022 school year, offered much smaller raises last year. The budget the school board adopted for the current school year included 2% midpoint raises for teachers and counselors and a $16 minimum wage for hourly employees.
In contrast, other Central Texas districts offered much higher raises ahead of the current school year. Del Valle ISD, for example, provided teachers with a 6% raise last year. DVISD is once again offering a 6% raise to teachers for the 2023-2024 school year, bringing their starting salary to $58,000 per year. Del Valle ISD librarians, counselors, nurses, paraprofessionals, auxiliary staff and administration will also get a 6% raise.