The Houston ISD Board of Education rejected an incomplete budget proposed by the administration on Tuesday, putting the largest public school district in Texas on the clock.
State law requires a budget for the 2019-20 school year to be approved by June 30. HISD trustees plan to revisit the issue at a meeting scheduled for June 27, when the proposed budget is expected to include a recommended compensation package that reflect pay raises mandated by the school-finance reform recently adopted by the Texas Legislature.
Trustees voted 6-3 against the budget proposed at Tuesday’s meeting, which did not include the pay raises for teacher and other school employees mandated by House Bill 3. The two trustees who serve area schools, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Elizabeth Santos, voted for and against the proposed budget, respectively.
Rene Barajas, the chief financial officer for the district, had asked trustees to approve a budget that was created before the law passed and then amend it with compensation increases later this month. Responding to questions about why HISD administrators did not already include the pay raises in its proposed budget, like other school districts in Texas have done, Barajas said, “I don’t work for those other districts.”
“My responsibility is to HISD,” he continued. “We’re the biggest district in the state. We’re still, I believe, the seventh-largest in the country. If we make mistakes, our mistakes are big and huge and people lose their jobs, and that’s not where we want to put ourselves.”
Much of the discussion at Tuesday’s board meeting focused on the compensation package that was presented outside of the proposed budget. Barajas said the state legislation would result in a windfall of $135 million for the district, which would offset a budget deficit of $36 million and allow the district to provide pay raises for all its employees.
Based on the proposed compensation package presented to the board, all HISD teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors and evaluation specialists would receive raises between 3.5 and 8 percent, depending on seniority. Campus principals and assistant principals, along with HISD administrators, would receive raises between 3.5 and 5 percent, with bus drivers slated to receive a minimum of $18 per hour.
The proposal also included a category for “All Other Employees” to receive 3.5 percent raises. Skillern-Jones identified that group to include some of the district’s lowest-paid employees and said they deserve more of a raise.
Santos echoed that sentiment in a series of comments on Twitter on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s time to do the right thing,” she tweeted, “and give our lowest paid employees a raise.”
Grenita Lathan, the interim superintendent for HISD, said the proposed compensation package would be vetted further leading up to the June 27 meeting.
“This is a start,” Lathan said. “We know there’s room for improvement in future years, once we have additional information.”