Frustrated district teachers speak out on salary increases

Georgetown ISD officials say as starting salaries increase so does pay for all teachers in the district. Here is a look at GISDu2019s starting salaries over time.

Georgetown ISD officials say as starting salaries increase so does pay for all teachers in the district. Here is a look at GISDu2019s starting salaries over time.

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What is a midpoint?
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Apples to apples
While some Georgetown ISD teachers will see a salary increase as high as 5.27% for the 2019-20 school year, many believe it is not enough compared to area districts that will see a higher percent pay raise.

In June, the GISD board of trustees voted to raise teacher, librarian, counselor and nurse salaries by 5.27% at the midpoint of the salary scale for those with six or more years of experience and a 4% pay raise at the midpoint of the salary scale for those with up to five years of experience. This would increase salaries by $3,000 for teachers with six or more years of experience and increase salaries by $2,278 for those with less.

The district will also increase its monthly health care contribution from $341 to $378.

“The priority was to give the maximum pay increase we could without cutting student programs,” GISD Superintendent Fred Brent said.

This is the largest pay raise GISD educators have seen in 10 years but remains a smaller percentage raise than Austin ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Leander ISD and Round Rock ISD, which have all pledged to increase salaries by higher percentages than GISD.

AISD has budgeted a 6% pay increase for teachers, librarians and counselors with one to five years of experience and 7% for those with six or more years of experience.

PfISD teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses and licensed professionals will see a 6.7% and 7% raise for those with one to five years of experience and those with six or more years of experience, respectively.

LISD teachers, counselors and librarians will see a 5%-7% pay increase based on experience, and RRISD teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses and licensed professionals will see a 7%-8% pay increase based on experience.

Jarrell ISD, a smaller district in the number of students it serves, pledged a 5% pay increase for all teachers, librarians and counselors.

Janie Wiley, a GISD teacher with 21 years of experience, said GISD salaries have always fallen behind area districts, and the low pay increase will only set the district more behind.

Wiley said she is just looking for competitive compensation, particularly for those with more experience in the classroom.

“Bottom line, I want to be valued for my experience,” Wiley said. “There’s got to be a way to make it right.”

Kayla Smith, a GISD educator with 30 years of classroom experience, said she will be receiving one of the smallest raises as an educator even though she is one of the most experienced.

“If the state is giving out money for teacher raises, give it to them,” Smith said.

Smith added she is frustrated with the district making new hires at the administrative level and steering its focus toward new buildings rather than those who interact with students daily. District data shows GISD continues to have 22 central administrative staff members, a number that has not increased since fiscal year 2010-11.

“As a teacher, buildings are not the most important thing; technology is not the most important thing; brand new innovation is not the most important thing; it’s building relationships with children,” Smith said.

Major miscommunication

The pay raises come on the heels of the 86th state Legislature’s House Bill 3, which promised districts more money to pay educators, among other amendments.

When predictions were released in May on how HB 3 would affect districts, it used average estimates from the legislative budget board that stated that teachers could expect a 10% pay raise, but it turned out to be very different when GISD put its actual data into the formula to calculate revenue, GISD Chief Financial Officer Pam Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the student population and demographics as well as the area’s tax base all affect state funding. Georgetown also has a large retirement community in Sun City, and much of its tax levy is frozen due to the age 65-plus tax exemption.

Brent added that with the increase in population growth and in property values, Georgetown is not average.

“Legislative estimates and predictions were simply that; they were predictions,” Brent said. “The actual data—real data of Georgetown students and Georgetown taxpayers—was much less than what the [legislators] said it would be.”

At one point, GISD was told it would receive $10 million in new money and pay $3.5 million in recapture, also known as the “Robin Hood” tax, which gives money from wealthier districts to less-wealthy districts in order to even out the playing field, Brent said.

Instead, GISD received $5.9 million in new money and was required to pay $9 million in recapture.

“When it comes down to it, we didn’t get near as much money as people thought we were going to get,” Brent said. “It’s almost an exact flip.”

Of the $5.9 million in new money, GISD earmarked $4.4 million for salaries, or 74.58% of the total. The remaining money went toward expanding student programs and hiring 39 new teachers, some of which will teach their new programs.

According to HB3, districts would be required to place at least 30% of its new money toward staff pay raises. For GISD, that would have been a 1.5% pay increase for teachers.

“I know I personally would love to give every teacher a bigger raise; the money just didn’t come through,” Brent said. “We wish we would’ve gotten more because we want to pay [teachers] more.”

Raised at midpoint

Many GISD teachers expressed their concern about their salaries being increased at the midpoint of the salary schedule rather than a percent raise from their current salaries.

This, they said, means they would not be seeing a pay increase as significantly as colleagues at a lower pay scale since all teachers with six or more years of experience will be receiving a $3,000 raise whether they have six years of experience or 25 years of experience.

Ruth McEntire, a Georgetown teacher with 15 years of experience, said she will be moving to RRISD in the fall because she did not feel valued at GISD.

“I think the hard part with the teachers’ salaries in Georgetown is that they are set to the midpoint,” McEntire said. “The teachers who have been loyal to the district see very little pay increase each year, [but] if you leave Georgetown and you come back, you will be at a higher pay just because when you [re-enter] Georgetown the [new] teachers with less years of experience could be paid more.”

Melinda Brasher, the GISD executive director of communications, said this would not be the case.

The district takes the midpoint salary of its scale and calculates the raise. That amount is then given to all teachers within the category of one to five years or six-plus years of experience.

In doing so, district officials said it gives equitable pay raises and keeps the current scale in place, only bumped up to accommodate the increase. The pay scale also accounts for the starting pay increase that will now be $48,000 from $46,000 in the prior school year, officials said.

“If you have more experience, you are making more money than someone with less experience based on the scale,” Brasher said. “The midpoint goes up; everybody goes up; so no teacher will be making less.”

Brasher added that using the midpoint to set salary increases is nothing new and only more talked about with the new legislation.

“It’s important to note that most districts use a similar pay scale and base salary increases [to GISD], most often on the midpoint,” Brasher said.

District obligations

Brent said the district is obligated to three entities—students, staff and taxpayers—and as such should not run a tax-driven budget in a deficit.

Other area districts, including AISD and RRISD, may take on deficit budgets in order to pay teachers higher salaries, which can result in cuts to other budget line items such as student programs.

Brent said due to the size of those districts, they have a greater capacity to incur the loss.

Georgetown has a student population of about 12,000 compared to AISD’s population of about 80,000, LISD’s population of about 40,000 and RRISD’s population of about 50,300, according to district websites. Because of their size, larger districts have greater efficiencies than a smaller district such as GISD in the same way JISD has less efficiencies than GISD, Brent said. With these efficiencies, larger districts can provide more services at a reduced cost, he said.

“Our approach was, ‘How can we pay our teachers and our staff as much as we possibly can while maintaining a financially healthy district so that we can have security for the future?” Brent said.  “Our goal will be to give more raises as soon as we can because our hope is that making this decision now, we can continue to give more raises later.”

In addition, the district said it wanted to put more money into student programs, such as cosmetology, which starts its first class in the fall and trains students to the point of licensure, and a second year of rocketry, in which students learn to build and navigate their own rockets.

“We’re accountable to our students that we have great programs that have opportunities to navigate their future; we’re accountable to our staff to pay the maximum dollars we can within the scope of our budget and provide professional learning opportunities; and we’re accountable to our taxpayers to be responsible with their dollars,” Brent said. “We took the money we had and maximized salaries the best we would within the scope of our local budget.”

Correction: Ruth McEntire left GISD because she felt she was not valued by the district, not lack of pay.
By Ali Linan
Ali Linan began covering Georgetown for Community Impact Newspaper in 2018. Her reporting focuses on education and Williamson County. Ali hails from El Paso and graduated from Syracuse University in 2017.


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