Several months after Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II released the outline of a five-year strategic plan for the district, he is making good on one of the key priorities: boosting teacher pay.

House announced HISD teachers will be receiving an average pay raise of 11% to kick off the 2022-23 school year, and the starting teacher salary will be bumped to $61,500, up from $56,869 in the 2021-22 school year.

The move exceeds an earlier pitch that called for boosting the starting salary to $59,000 in 2022-23 and then to $61,500 in 2023-24. Instead the first two years' worth of raises will be combined into one, HISD officials said in a May 26 news release.

“Our teachers are committed to their kids and their classrooms for the long-term and its incumbent on the district to honor their commitment,” House said in a statement. “Our teachers are not just educators. They inspire, motivate, and uplift. We have always known that and saw it once again this week. ... We ask so much of our teachers and it is past due time that HISD upheld its end of the bargain.”

The raises will be paid for with federal coronavirus relief dollars that came to HISD through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. As a result, it will not affect the district's general fund or worsen its structural deficit, officials said.

According to a May 26 budget workshop packet, the district is projecting a deficit of $196 million in the 2022-23 school year, which officials plan to cover with available fund balance—of which an estimated $243 million is expected to be available for use—and one-time and ESSER indirect cost funds.

The strategic plan already called for spending $83 million on teacher raises in the 2022-23 school year prior to the May 26 announcement, and the additional boost comes at the cost of another $63 million.

HISD has received roughly $1.16 billion in ESSER funds, which must be spent by the end of the 2023-24 school year. Since ESSER is a one-time allocation, House has previously said future teacher raises in his strategic plan will require the district to restructure its budget.

Teachers at all steps will see salary increases. HISD officials said the increases are meant to make the district more competitive with others in the area.

A compensation study conducted in May 2021 found when comparing 12 Houston-area districts, HISD ranked 11th in first-year teacher salary, 11th in teachers who were on Step 10 and 6th in teachers who made it to Step 20.

"With this revised plan, HISD will outpace the minimum teacher salaries in several other large Texas school districts like Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin ISD," officials said in a statement. "With a starting teacher salary of $61,500, HISD will be amongst the most competitive districts in the region."

Budget conversations are ongoing at other Houston-area school districts, and it remains to be seen what starting teacher salary increases may be adopted for many of them. Among those that have announced pay increases, Humble ISD also moved up to $61,500; Spring ISD went up to $60,500; and Klein ISD went up to $60,000.