Houston ISD board passes budget with $14 minimum wage, but teacher raises still lag nearby districts

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The Houston ISD board of education pushed back against the administration’s recommended budget June 27, approving amendments to raise the minimum wage to $14 per hour, limit raises for nonteacher employees making more than $75,000 and allocate $24.5 million in additional resources for campuses.

“Stick with us—we don’t go home tonight and say we’re done,” trustee Anne Sung told audience members, which had included community members backing the minimum wage increase. “We’re not where we want to be; we’re only going to get there if we keep working together as a community.”

The amended $2 billion budget passed in a 5-1 vote. Three board members were absent. The board previously rejected a budget presented by the administration that did not include any raises but would have instead presented raises in a separate vote.

The minimum wage increase was projected to cost $16.9 million and was originally proposed by trustee Elizabeth Santos to be paid for through departmental cuts that the administration proposed in an earlier budget workshop when it was forecasting a shortfall and no new state revenue.

Administrators warned those cuts would trigger potentially hundreds of layoffs, so trustees recommended using fund reserves to prevent staff cuts, with the expectation that additional House Bill 3 funds and budgetary falloff—which occurs when unexpended funds accrue at the end of the year—would offset the increase and would be used to pay back the fund reserve.

Trustee Sue Deigaard was the lone vote against the minimum wage amendment, saying it had not been fully vetted by the administration to ensure layoffs or detrimental cuts would not occur as a result.

“I just don’t feel that I can support anything as far as amendments go where I don’t know the impact—that hasn’t had a financial analysis done on it,” she said.

Despite giving teachers a minimum 3.5% raise, the starting pay rate for a new teacher will be $54,369, at least $1,000 lower than some of its neighboring districts, which are all approving pay increases this year.

“It seems like every campus is looking for teachers, and teachers have options. They can go right next door a couple miles away and work for a district that pays $2-$3,000 more than we are,”  board president Diana Davila said.

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Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.
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