AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin ISD Board of Trustees on Thursday approved using up to $53 million of the district’s reserve funds to give teachers and school employees a raise next school year.
It comes as the legislature has yet to get a bill addressing teacher pay to the governor’s desk after months of promising solving the state’s teacher shortage was a top priority.
In a statement to KXAN, the district’s Chief Finance OIfficer Ed Ramos said it could not wait on legislative decisions because educators were making employment decisions now.
“These raises projects we will have to use our savings based on current state funding. It is a much-needed investment in our employees who struggle with inflation and cost of living increases,” Ramos said. “We hope the state also chooses to invest in our students and teachers.”
Round Rock ISD Trustees also approved a 3 percent raise for its teachers and librarians this week.
The most recent data from the Texas Education Agency shows statewide more than 49,782 teachers left Texas public schools ahead of the 2022-23 school year.
It was 16 percent more educators leaving Texas schools than the previous year. The data showed the two last school years have seen the highest increases in teachers leaving the state’s public schools since 2011.
After 25 years in retirement, Lisa Mozley and her friends agreed to come back to education this school year.
“It wasn’t a thing where we were looking for a job or looking for something to do. We felt like we were needed again,” Mozley said.
At the time she returned, AISD was amid a historic retention crisis, with hundreds of classroom positions unfilled at the start of the school year. The vacancies impacted vulnerable populations, including special education and emergent bilingual learners.
The problem has not let up.
Mozley, who spent her career as a kindergarten-level teacher, accepted a job at Woolridge Elementary as a second-grade teacher because that was where she was needed.
“We have certain grades where we had permanent subs all year, and I just noticed that these are not people with education degrees,” Mozley said. “They started out subbing. some of them have been retired from whatever industry they were working in, and they became permanent subs.”
Mosley says her campus also just lost its librarian. Another big loss, felt by students, she says.
“I would say our future hangs in the balance. Right now, the teaching industry, the education industry is in free fall,” Mozley said. “I think the teachers need more money. The legislators are not addressing that. I think the schools themselves need more resources and they are not addressing that either and I don’t understand why.”
With 10 days left in the session, three bills still have a chance of passing—all of which address teacher pay. Some education advocates argue the bills don’t go far enough in incentivizing teachers to stay in the classroom.
The initial version of Senate Bill 9, which has made it the farthest this session, would provide $2,000 across-the-board raises for Texas teachers and $6,000 raises for teachers working in school districts with fewer than 20,000 students.
“$2,000 is a drop in the bucket. Think about $2,000 over 12 months. It’s very little money,” Mozley said. “We need something significant.”
“It all comes down to being able to exist, to have a living wage. We do not have that right now.”