AUSTIN (KXAN) – Weeks into the school year, the Austin Independent School District was still trying to recover from the record-high number of teachers who quit or retired the previous year.

But amid hiring nearly 1,000 new teachers, the school district missed an important deadline: payroll.

Email records and complaints sent to the district’s human capital office show delays in onboarding new hires led to missing money on teachers’ paychecks – and some being paid late.

In a Sept. 12 email, the director of Staffing and Recruiting said she was concerned some employees would “go two months without payment” because new hire files had not been processed in a timely manner.

According to a school district spokesperson, fewer than 50 teachers received their paychecks late. Records obtained by KXAN show between the first day of school and Sept. 30 at least 90 teachers complained to the districts’ Let’s Talk system that they did not receive stipend funds owed to them. 

Many were told their stipends were not loaded in time for payroll cut-off – and would be added to their next paycheck. The issue impacted coaches, band directors and those with advanced degrees.

One teacher told the district “I need that money in order to pay bills.” Another said, “I cannot afford for Austin [ISD] to wait until next month to pay me.”

The district’s Human Capital Chief Brandi Hosack said an unprecedented number of new hires – many of which were last-minute — led to the office missing the payroll deadline.

Hosack said her office was also dealing with vacancies.

“Absolutely unacceptable, because when you sign on to do a job, you expect to be paid for the entire job that you are doing, including your supplemental duties,” Hosack said.

“There is no excuse for it. Even this far, this many weeks out, we have already started to clean the system so that we are not back in the same situation,” she added.

Hosack said her office is launching a new employee management system, automating the onboarding process, and alerting staff when there is a problem or delay.

The chief said Oct. 27 by and large she believed employees have been paid or retro-paid their stipends. Teachers who talked to KXAN anonymously said they received some or all of their back pay.

Austin ISD, like several other school districts facing staffing shortages, has pledged to raise teacher pay to recruit and retain its workforce.

Board President Geronimo Rodriguez said the district has a goal to offer the highest starting salary in Central Texas. The district has not yet met that goal.

Exit forms from teachers who left during the previous school year reveal many were struggling to afford the increasing rental prices – and property taxes in the city on a teacher’s salary.

The district has used stipends as an incentive to recruit more teachers into hard-to-staff schools and positions, including $6,000-a-year stipend for bilingual classroom teachers and $2,000 for special education educators.

Employees who coach sports teams, lead extracurricular teams, hold advanced degrees, and take on additional roles can also earn stipends ranging from $500 to $14,500 in added income.

“I want every single teacher that works for Austin ISD, and everywhere else for that matter, to know we know teaching is one of the hardest professions that you could possibly do,” Hosack said. “One of the things we should do at minimum is to make sure you are compensated on time, and I do not take that lightly. We need to take better care of our employees.”