Teacher salary for educators in HISD will be frozen at their 2017-2018 level if a new compensation proposal passes this week – but trustee Elizabeth Santos and a plethora of dissenting voices are unhappy with the change and calling for a “step” salary bump.
Last Thursday, dozens of parents, educators and board members alike joined Santos at a press conference regarding the district’s plan to keep teacher’s salaries steady rather than using a “step” increase, as has been done in previous years. Salaries were also previously frozen in the 2016-2017 school year.
“I’ve heard from many teachers across the district who had no idea that they would be paid less than teachers with the same experience were paid last year,” Santos said, adding it was not until last week’s board meeting that trustees learned of the plan. “It’s simply not right to tell teachers their pay is being cut days before they return to their classrooms for the new school year – and beyond that, it’s not smart.”
Administrators were not available for comment following Thursday’s press conference, and follow-up requests to reach HISD for comment were unsuccessful.
HISD trustees cut about $84 million from the district’s newly-passed $2 billion budget in June in the wake of a shortfall, simultaneously agreeing to pull as much as $17 million from the district’s rainy-day fund for the upcoming year. Providing “step” increases in 2018-19 would have cost about $6 million, which was not included in the district’s recently passed budget – and which Santos believes is already easily accounted for without cutting funds elsewhere.
“Extra years deserve extra compensation,” she said. “Teachers deserve that compensation for the weight that they bear. We have not valued our teachers the way we should value them.”
Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo echoed the sentiment.
“The improvements that were made, and those that yet need to be made, were made because of the teachers standing in front of the kids in those classrooms,” he said. “They are first and foremost the ones who make those gains, and this is not the way to welcome them back to a new year when we need them focused on doing the best for our kids.”
Teachers would not see any salary increases if the proposal passes, even if they gained an extra year of experience, after trustees did not include any additional spending for salaries in HISD’s budget for the 2018-2019 school year.
By keeping the current step schedule for another year, many teachers would have received salary bumps ranging from $200 to more than $2,000 — around 2 to 4 percent — in the 2018-19 school year depending on level of experience.
“Our teachers and school administrators that meet our kids are not our first priority [right now],” Capo said. “We’ve got to make changes – our community, teachers, parents, and the public are standing together.”
Santos said average teacher tenure has been trending downward for years, and expect that trend to continue. As such, she said it is imperative to ensure the district does not lose what some view as its most valuable asset – experienced classroom teachers.
HISD teachers stand among the lowest-paid in the greater Houston region relative to educators with identical experience.
“It is unfortunate that the administration can find a way to budget for gas increases and energy increases, but when it comes to the salary schedule – which has already been approved, providing for modest incomes so teachers can also budget for those increases – cannot be improved,” Capo said.