Due to a teacher shortage in the San Antonio region, local school district officials have worked to increase wages, benefits and other incentives to attract and retain teaching staff.

In addition to increased wages and benefits, North San Antonio-area school districts, such as North East and Northside, have looked toward alternative ways to hire additional teachers, including targeted pay raises and hiring degreed teachers who lack certification.

“Our mindset has been, ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen at the state level, but let’s do something to curb teacher vacancies,’” said Ben Muir, NISD’s executive director of human resources.

Two-minute impact

NEISD and NISD each implemented historic raises since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials in each district.

Over the last three school years, NEISD raised starting teachers’ salaries from $54,250 in 2021-22 to $57,000 in 2023-24. NISD increased its starting teachers’ salaries from $56,675 in 2021-22 to $59,255 in 2023-24.

In February 2023, Gov. Greg Abbott’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force released a report on teacher recruitment and retention challenges statewide. The report showed pay as a top priority.

However, NISD and NEISD leaders said during budget meetings they are each operating with a budget shortfall, and they are unable to sustain additional compensation increases yearly at their existing budget level.

NEISD Superintendent Sean Maika said administrators sought to save money, increase efficiencies and reduce the district’s $39 million shortfall while developing this school year’s pay program.

“Adopting the compensation package we proposed is really making a commitment for the next three years to allow us to bring [to the school board] $10 million in budget savings over the next three years,” Maika said last June.

The specifics

Educators, such as Britney Ramos, a third-year teacher at NISD’s Locke Hill Elementary School, said competitive pay and benefits are just two of many factors teachers consider in their job hunt.

Ramos said some educators may feel compelled to reconsider their career path if pressured by such things as staffing shortages in other campus positions, and mounting state mandates and paperwork.

“All that does is put a burden on teachers,” Ramos said.

Muir and Chyla Whitton, NEISD’s executive director of human resources, said the number of teacher vacancies in their respective districts is down from last school year, but it is still a challenge to fill positions, such as special and bilingual education.

NISD had 188 vacant teaching positions, and NEISD had 75 such vacancies by late December.

“We were really losing teachers in the eight- to nine-year [experience] range and the 12- to 14-year [experience] range,” said Susie Lackorn, NEISD budget and financial analysis director.

Officials with NISD and NEISD said their respective districts being districts of innovation, a statewide designation, gives them flexibility to hire degreed, noncertified teachers, and offer other incentives to boost recruitment and retention.

Muir said rehiring retired educators has helped to fill NISD teacher vacancies. Whitton said she felt NEISD’S district of innovation designation and salary hikes targeting specific positions have helped to reduce her district’s staffing burdens.

Going forward

While compensation is one of the most important pieces of hiring and retention, officials with NEISD and NISD said they are looking to enhance benefits and other conditions in order to help teachers. Officials said they plan to focus on these factors:
  • Work-life balance
  • Work culture
  • Dedicated planning time
  • Increased job benefits
  • More incentives
NISD Superintendent John Craft said leaders of school districts must be as open and flexible as possible to try old and new ways to shore up their staffs.

"How do we staff up and ensure we’re doing everything we can to equip our [human resources] department and our campus principals to be able to hire, particularly in the critical shortage areas?” Craft said.

Melina Espíritu-Azocar, chief of staff of the Northside American Federation of Teachers, said she has seen many teachers leave her district or the education profession altogether because they feel they have neither adequate pay nor a work-life balance.

In the 2022-23 school year, there were 371,650 teachers statewide, according to Texas Education Agency data. Last school year, 49,782 teachers left their jobs, and 51,001 new teachers were hired.

North East AFT President Patsy Esterline told NEISD trustees in a fiscal year 2023-24 budget meeting that teachers need a higher level of financial steadiness in uncertain times.

“To best serve the students, we need an experienced and stable workforce. We don’t have that right now, so it must be a district priority,” Esterline said.