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San Antonio ISD cuts central office budget to give raises that reward experience

The outside of San Antonio ISD's new Central Office Building in September 2021.
Camille Phillips

Teachers, instructional assistants and other hourly workers in the San Antonio Independent School District will get a raise of at least 4% next school year.

On Monday evening, SAISD trustees approved what district officials said was the largest compensation package in 25 years. The nearly $20 million package rewards campus employees for their years of service, capping out at 9% for 25-year veteran teachers.

SAISD gave teachers and hourly workers a 3% raise last school year.

Before the vote, Head Start Instructional Assistant Julie Castro thanked the board for listening to employees and giving them a raise that helps make up for inflation.

“Although our students keep us coming back into our classrooms every day, our love for them does not put food on our tables or shelter over our heads,” Castro said. “My family and I will celebrate together tonight as we look forward for the largest raise I have ever seen during my time in the district. I will be back next year to give my kids the care that they deserve.”

SAISD teachers, librarians, and nurses with up to five years’ experience will receive a 4% raise. A quarter percent increase will be added to the raise for every year of additional experience, capping out at a 9% raise for teachers with 25 years of experience.

Middle school teacher Chris Encino said he thinks the added compensation for veteran teachers is the most important part of the salary increase.

“This is personally my third year as a teacher, and all three years have been in this district,” Encino said. “I could not have done it without the help of some amazing and experienced teachers. If it were not for their wisdom and insight, I would have given up.”

The compensation package also increases the district’s minimum wage to $16.50 an hour and rewards hourly workers for their years of experience, with a guaranteed minimum 4% raise. All other full-time SAISD employees will receive a 3% raise.

Superintendent Jaime Aquino said trustees have pushed him to find a way to better support staff from the time he was first hired a year ago.

“I am proud to bring this recommendation today to the board. And I will be the first one to say, 'actually, it's not enough,' ” Aquino said Monday, adding that he wanted to make it clear that SAISD was only able to afford the raises by making big cuts.

The district cut $16 million from its central office budget this school year, and it plans to cut another $6.5 million next year.

San Antonio ISD is San Antonio’s third largest school district, with more than 45,000 students.

“I don't want that narrative with our elected officials in Austin saying, ‘You see, if San Antonio ISD was able to give the largest compensation increase in over 25 years, every single district can do it,’ and not then allocate additional funding,” Aquino said. “Because that is not true. It is with painful cuts that we had to do this and it's not enough. It's just the first step.”

The urgent need to attract and retain more teachers overshadowed the entire discussion of salaries and raises — a discussion that is also playing out at the state level.

Seventh grader Theodore Walker summed up what’s at stake for SAISD’s trustees.

“During sixth grade, we had more than ten different substitutes for science class, and with each teacher came a new approach to learning. For me and many other students, it was hard to adapt,” he said. “With more pay for our teachers, students wouldn't have to have many different teachers in a single year. This could have students more engaged and focus on learning, and teachers would stay for longer.”

If the Texas Legislature passes a teacher raise or increases funding per student, which comes with an automatic teacher raise, SAISD plans to apply those raises to this compensation package.

“I think our package is going to be way [more] generous than what the Legislature is going to do,” Aquino said.

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.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.