Houston ISD board members debate teacher and staff pay raises

Frustrated over teacher and staff pay raises, two Houston ISD trustees said they will likely vote against the district’s budget if no changes are made by next week.

Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jolanda Jones pushed back at a meeting Thursday against the district’s proposal to spend $26.92 million on increasing teacher and staff salaries, insisting it was not enough to stay competitive with others nearby.

HISD finance officials asked the board how it should divvy up that $26.92 million among teachers, bus drivers, hourly employees and principals. Officials said it would cost $24 million to give teachers a 3 percent raise, even though teachers unions and others have called for a 5 percent raise.

“We haven’t agreed as a board that this $26 million is OK, that this $26 million is all we can spend on salaries,” Skillern-Jones said. “We’re not supportive of this budget — I’m not sure it’s going to pass.”

Board members are scheduled to vote June 20 on the nearly $2 billion budget for the coming school year.

Superintendent Richard Carranza said the budget does provide some incentives to keep teachers in the Houston ISD, including stipends for teachers who volunteer to work in high-needs schools as well as ensuring no employee will see an increase in out-of-pocket health care costs.

“As we actually looked at the numbers in terms of stability, it became more of a conversation about this is where we are in our region, this is a pot of money we have for salary raises, how do we distribute that pot of money,” Carranza said.

Carranza added that any salary increases would be “a true raise in take-home pay this year.”

When Trustee Holly Vilaseca asked what the district could do to put more money toward pay raises, Carranza said it would likely involve cutting existing jobs and positions, as they represent the biggest component of the district’s budget.

But Trustee Jones said she would vote against any budget that does not include a 5 percent raise for teachers and a lifting of the district’s minimum hourly wage to at least $12 an hour.

“If teachers don’t get a 5 percent raise, I’m not voting for it” Jones said. “A 5 percent raise wouldn’t make us the best-paying in the area, but we’re the biggest district in the state, seventh-biggest in the country. We should have the best salaries (for teachers) in the state.”

Trustee Diana Davila said the district can’t spend money on raises it doesn’t have.

“I don’t think there’s anyone on this board who doesn’t want to give teachers a 5 percent raise,” Davila said. “But it’s about what’s feasible. You have to stay within the budget.”


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