More than 100 Austin ISD teachers and staff rallied before Monday’s school board meeting, demanding a 10 percent raise as the board prepares to pass its budget next month.
The district has said it's only able to give a one percent raise to teachers – and no raises to support staff like bus drivers, cafeteria workers and administrative staff.
The average salary for an Austin ISD teacher is about $51,000, so a one percent raise would boost teacher salaries by around $500 a year.
Kent Coupe, a social studies teacher at Lanier High School, told the board during public comment that incremental pay raises make the district a hard place to work.
“AISD teachers do not get burned out, AISD teachers get pushed out,” he said. “The board pushes hundreds of highly qualified, highly educated, highly trained, caring teachers out of the classroom with the district’s stagnant and uncompetitive pay.”
Other teachers said they currently can’t afford to live near the schools they work at and can’t cover basic expenses.
“I’m pulling money out of my savings every month to get by, which isn’t sustainable, while my colleagues are driving for rideshares or putting off medical treatment,” said Maplewood kindergarten teacher Traci Dunlap. She went on to say custodians and bus drivers struggle even more to support their families on a lower salary.
Teresa Razo, a bilingual teacher at McBee Elementary School, said her pay is so low she's had to take a second job.
“I’m a Lyft driver,” she told the board. “I clocked in 40 hours last week. Every day, I have to clock in from 5 o'clock to 10 o'clock.”
The group asked board members why they couldn't offer better raises, as the Texas Legislature prepares to retool the state's school finance system, which could give districts more to invest in salary boosts. AISD sends millions in property tax revenue to the state under the current system, known as recapture. The plan lawmakers are deliberating could allow AISD to hold on to more of that tax revenue.
Still, lawmakers haven't finalized its school finance plan, and Austin ISD argues it can't spend money it doesn’t yet have.
State lawmakers are also considering raising salaries in their school finance plan, though the Texas House and Senate haven't yet agreed on how much or whether that raise would apply solely to teachers and librarians or all school employees.
Increasing teacher pay is one of the goals of the district’s school consolidation process. That plan, which will be finalized in October, would close or consolidate schools to save district money on maintenance and other costs associated with underutilized properties. With less money going to overhead, AISD says it could afford to pay staff higher salaries.
The board will approve next year’s budget at its June meeting.