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Education

San Antonio ISD approves 3% raise for school workers

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Camille Phillips
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Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Alliance members and supporters rally for raises and smaller class sizes outside of San Antonio ISD's central office May 17, 2022.

The San Antonio Independent School District board of trustees voted Monday to give all campus staff a 3% raise next school year.

Campus administrators will get a 2% raise, and central office staff will get a 1% boost.

Jaime Aquino, SAISD’s new superintendent, had recommended the board limit the raise to 2% for all employees because of a $28 million deficit in next year’s budget. Another $30 million of the budget is supported by ESSER funds, which the district will have to shoulder when the federal grant runs out.

“This recommendation does not reflect the value we have for our people, but unfortunately, it is where we are in our current financial situation,” said Aquino, who became superintendent two weeks ago.

The San Antonio Alliance, which represents the district’s teachers and support personnel, advocated for a 5% raise to help attract and retain staff.

A large crowd of union members and their supporters held a rally before the board meeting, holding signs that read “Smaller class sizes” and “Fight for the schools our students deserve.”

Pre-K 3 teacher Teresa Razo wore a placard that read “More than praise, we need a raise” and carried an umbrella to protect her from the day’s record-breaking heat. She said a 5% raise would go a lot further, but a 2% raise is better than nothing.

Union President Alejandra Lopez said teachers are stretched thin after covering extra classes this year, and a significant raise is needed to ensure all positions are filled next school year.

San Antonio Alliance President Alejandra Lopez addresses the crowd with a row of union members holding signs and banners behind her with the downtown skyline in the background.
Camille Phillips
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Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Alliance President Alejandra Lopez addresses union members and supporters at a rally before the San Antonio ISD board meeting May 16, 2022.

“Our union's top priority this year is to attract and retain high quality staff through a pay raise for the 2022-23 school year,” she told the board during public comment. “Our members shared their experiences about how challenging these past two years have been, about the impact that vacancies have had on their school community, and about the necessity of the board demonstrating their commitment to the workers in our district.”

Like many districts, SAISD struggled to find enough teachers and subs this year.

The board plans to give retention bonuses mid-year if attendance rates return to pre-COVID levels.

Trustees Sarah Sorensen and Alicia Sebastian voted against the 3% raise because they wanted to increase it to 4%.

Aquino said he recommended a conservative raise because of the deficit, which was caused by declines in enrollment and attendance exacerbated by the pandemic.

A screenshot of the district's projected cost for various raises presented during the SAISD board meeting May 16, 2022. The 2% raise recommended by the superintendent would have reduced the general fund balance by $11 million by 2028. The 3/2/1 scenario approved by trustees is projected to reduce the fund balance by $30 million by 2028.
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San Antonio ISD
A screenshot of the district's projected cost for various raises presented during the SAISD board meeting May 16, 2022.

“The decisions we had made in the past put us in the position that we find ourselves today. And we also want to avoid doing the same thing for the future,” Aquino said. “As your new superintendent, I want to make sure that in a year or two years, that the situation (isn’t) worse, and then we have to have massive layoffs.”

But board members said they wanted to send a strong message of support to employees now, even if they would have to scramble to find a way to balance the budget later.

“My sense is unless we take bold action this budget, that if the morale of our employees — that first frontline of faces that our families see — are not excited to return next school year, that the declines will continue. That the academic declines will continue, that the mental health will continue to add up,” said trustee Ed Garza. “If we don't have happy people, we don't have happy students. If no one's learning in the schools, then the financial stuff really doesn't matter.”

The district based its budget projections on a 90% attendance rate, three percentage points higher than the current rate.

More details on the budget, which will be approved in June, can be found on the district’s website.

Aquino said he needs everyone in the community to work together to get students registered for next school year and boost attendance.

He also asked everyone to help him lobby state lawmakers to increase per pupil funding, which he said was 45th in the nation.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Education News Desk, including H-E-B Helping Here, Betty Stieren Kelso Foundation and Holly and Alston Beinhorn.