Two South Side school districts have approved pay hikes, just as educators wrestle with a continuing pandemic and how to use new federal recovery money.
The raises are taking place in the Harlandale and San Antonio independent school districts.
A projected savings of $42.2 million from its 2020-2021 school year are being used to support HISD’s deficit budget for 2021-2022.
HISD estimated $139.1 million in expenses and $135.1 million in revenues for the new academic cycle.
Harlandale and other districts worry about flat student enrollment figures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, HISD officials said it was crucial to maintain support for employees.
HISD’s new budget includes a salary increase of 3% to 4% for teachers depending on their years of service; a starting teacher salary of $55,000; a general 3% hike based on paraprofessionals and classified employees’ midpoint; and a minimum hourly rate of $13 for new paraprofessionals and classified employees.
Susan Salinas, a Texas State Teachers Association regional organizer, said HISD’s pay hikes are a good starting point to help make Harlandale more competitive with neighboring school districts.
“The district needs to look to the future to address this issue in depth so that we’ll be able to attract the best and the brightest,” she said.
Harlandale ISD is receiving $38.7 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.
The money was part of a larger allocation of funds for U.S. public schools contained in the American Rescue Plan Act, the latest COVID-19 emergency relief package approved by Congress.
Harlandale has the next three school years to spend the funds, which are restricted to supporting academic functions, maintaining social/emotional and other district services, and coronavirus safety measures.
Like all other public school systems receiving ESSER funds, HISD is crafting a plan and getting community input toward using its federal relief money.
So far, HISD stakeholders have suggested using the ESSER money to fund summer programs, hiring and retaining staff, counseling and intervention/tutorial programs.
Harlandale’s new budget also features a $600 stipend for all employees, and for middle school baseball/softball programs.
The retention stipend was another proposal that community members sought for ESSER fund use.
Meanwhile, several HISD parents backed the financial boost for baseball and softball programs. They said teaching those sports to seventh- and eighth-graders during the class day will help interested students develop skills before getting to high school.
“If we can get these kids started earlier, have them be more
successful in high school, it does give them a better opportunity to get scholarships,” said parent Roy Bonilla.
Harlandale is keeping its property tax rate at $1.42 per $100 valuation.
Meanwhile, SAISD’s $487.5 million budget for 2021-2022 includes a 2% scale adjustment for teachers, nurses and librarians.
There’s a 2% pay hike for all other full-time, permanent employees, and a one-time $500 longevity stipend.
SAISD’s new budget also contains a $10,000 additional time stipend for approved teachers.
SAISD trustees approved a separate plan to use $78.3 million in ESSER money to hire more teachers for campuses with a higher level of pandemic recovery needs.
The same relief money will also support expansion of special- education resources, extracurricular programs, student access to social workers and emotional health care, and extend the school year.
Several residents, educators and students at the June 22 SAISD board meeting criticized the district, saying there was little public engagement about using ESSER funds.
Superintendent Pedro Martinez promised to regularly brief the board on how individual campuses use the recovery money. He added campus leaders were key in planning the use of ESSER funds.
“This has to be a collective effort across the entire community,” he told school board members. “It isn’t me making a decision; it isn’t yourself making individual decisions. It really is driven by the schools.”
SAISD is keeping its property tax rate of $1.50 per $100 valuation.