McAllen school board OKs pay raises for teachers, staff

McALLEN — The school board here approved a measure to increase pay for teachers and support staff in a 6-1 vote this week.

The district’s pay increase for teachers will be about 3.9% of the market median in this decision, according to board president Marco Suarez. The current salary for a teacher at McAllen ISD with no years of experience is about $47,750 according to the district website. The current minimum pay for teachers for the 2019-2020 academic year is $49,100 with 187 work days.

The salary increase came about in part with the passage of a $11.5 billion state appropriation in a bill that increases the state’s share of school finance. By easing the local funding burden, the hope is to be able to reduce school property taxes.

Talk of an across-the-board pay raise of $5,000 during the legislative did not come to pass in the final version of the bill that Gov. Greg Abbott signed on June 11. Several local superintendents and elected officials welcomed the additional state-funds from the recently passed bill. The measure provides funds for free full-day pre-K programs and increase basic allotment per student by about 20%, $5,140 to $6,160 according to the document.

The state law dictates that 30% of state revenue from the bill must go toward compensation for employees that are not administrators. 75% of that portion must go toward pay toward teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses, and prioritizing based on experience.

The pay increase is based on years of experience for teachers and librarians with tiers by experience. $1,850 for these employees with 1-5 years, $2,050 for 6-12 years, $2,250 for 13-19 years of experience, and $2,450 for teachers with over 20 years in the profession.

The formula and projections for finding the financial outcome from the recently passed bill is based on a template according to assistant superintendent for business operations Cynthia Medrano-Richards in her presentations. This “state-funding template” along with a revenue comparison between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 will be used to determine compensation. The Texas Education Agency has not entirely finalized the data, with “several moving parts,” Medrano-Richards said during the board meeting.

For nurses, counselors and other staff, the increase will be 2.5% “based on their midpoint of their pay grade,” Medrano-Richards said.

The raises are based on 30% of estimated of $16 million in state funds, as discussed in the board meeting.

“No matter what we have to meet the state formula,” Suarez said.

Suarez said he didn’t want to allot funds that the district does not have. Suarez said he is also a “realist,” noting they need to work with the money they are more certain of. Talks of the $5,000 raise during the session gave an “unfair perception” of salary increase, he said.

“I think teachers out there are expecting us to fight for them,” Suarez said.

Starting teachers are drawn to McAllen because of the location, Suarez said citing teacher surveys.

However, if a pay gap starts to increase compared with other districts, that may change, he said.

“We can’t be too picky, the fact they’ve been neglected for so long, and our legislature has finally approved something, we’ll take it from there, but I hope this is not the end for public education,” Suarez said.

Trustee Debbie Aliseda expressed caution, and was the lone dissent vote against the current salary raise because it is based on projections, she said.

“Not because I’m saying no to teacher raises, I think everybody needs a raise, but because I think the numbers should be bigger, and I think it will be bigger,” she said.

“But I don’t think we know that number yet, so because it’s projected, I have a real problem with that until we actually know the real numbers,” Aliseda added.

Since the exact number is not clear, she said it might be better to wait on the decision, and increasing the compensation around August or September, Aliseda said.

“You can’t take it back,” she said of an increase. Aliseda commented on a more “conservative” measure based on a lower amount of state funding, stressing the need for caution.

The next fiscal year begins on July 1, and will end on June 30, 2020 and board approved of the general fund, which is estimated at $232.6 million.

The 2018-19 minimum salary for a teacher with a minimum 187 days worked and a 10 month contract must earn $2,808 monthly, according to the Texas Education Agency. It also stated that teachers with 20 years and over have a minimum salary of $4,551 monthly with the same days worked and contract period. This also applies to full-time counselors, registered nurses and librarians.

jhoang@themonitor.com