From the District: Update on 2022–23 schedule, pay raises

Dear Austin ISD community,

After reflecting on input that I and members of our leadership team recently received from many of our staff and families, I wanted to let you know where we’ve landed on the schedule for next school year. I also wanted to share how we’re proposing to use savings from that schedule change and from cuts here at Central Office to fund proposed pay increases in the budget that trustees will vote on in June.

Budget problem: We have significant and acute budget pressures here. As you probably know, Austin ISD is running a $62-million budget deficit and has dipped into cash reserves for the past five years. This cannot continue without hurting our bond rating, which would make building new schools or fixing our existing ones nearly impossible. We have to be fiscally responsible.

Staffing problem: We’re overstaffed, spending more on payroll than is funded by our current enrollment. We also need to reduce vacancies.

What we decided: The feedback I and others on my team have received has been clear. You want an eight-period day with block scheduling. And after discussing this with our principals, that’s exactly what we’ve decided to do. For the 2022–23 school year, Austin ISD schools will run an eight-period block schedule as most of our schools do now. If you have questions about how this will be implemented at your campus, contact your principal.

Raise for those who make the least: But it also allows us to propose giving pay raises next school year to the approximately 2,000 hourly employees such as custodians and food service staff, who work for as little as $13.50 an hour to our new minimum wage, $16 an hour. I cannot in good conscience continue to pay people so little.

Other cuts needed: With a $62 million budget deficit, we are going to need to find savings. We are going to begin here at Central Office. We have already eliminated 60 positions since August 2020, which reduced spending by $4.8 million. That’s good, but it’s only a start; we’re committed to finding $11.8 million more in cuts at Central Office alone, and as the budget process continues we will identify other cost-saving measures so we can propose a balanced budget to trustees in June.

Deserve more, make more: We can never pay our teachers what they deserve. But just because we can’t give them everything they deserve doesn’t mean we can’t do more than we are. So we’re proposing to take money saved from cuts at Central Office and increase teacher pay by 2% of the midpoint of their pay scale for the 2022–23 school year. In addition, we also are going to propose that trustees approve a $1,000 base pay raise for each of our approximately 5,000 teachers in Austin ISD for next school year.

Thank you. We would not have arrived at this place without feedback from our staff and the community, so thank you. This schedule change and the budget cuts can provide our students with the enriching and challenging academic opportunities they deserve, the planning time our elementary school teachers have lacked, and the increased pay our teachers, custodians, and food service and other classified workers deserve.

Next steps: Principals will gather on Wednesday to discuss the finer points of the schedule for next year. And I am making a commitment to you to include these proposed pay raises in a balanced budget for the trustees to consider in June.

Thank you for your patience and attention,

Dr. Stephanie S. Elizalde