San Antonio school districts have poured millions of dollars into increasing compensation for teachers and other staff members in an effort to retain workers, after bus drivers, custodians and others demanded raises from school boards in response to inflation and higher job demands.

Superintendents said the pay raises are necessary to keep schools fully staffed and improve student academic success, but it has been difficult to balance budgets with low student attendance rates, which is how Texas mostly funds school districts.

The school board of Northside Independent School District, the area’s largest, recently approved a $21.7 million compensation package that will raise salaries for all staff. The package includes a $1,250 pay increase for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. NISD’s starting pay for teachers is $57,590 for the 2022-23 school year.

“In Northside, we value our employees and know they are one of the reasons this is a special place but we must also exercise sound fiscal responsibility. What was approved was the best balance we could find between doing our best for employees while trying to get even reasonably close to a balanced budget,” Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods said in a statement. “That particular compensation package pushed our projected budget deficit for next year from $53 million to $73 million.”

NISD’s compensation plan also includes a 4% raise for auxiliary staff, based on the midpoint of their pay range. Auxiliary staff generally includes clerical positions as well as bus drivers and instructional support specialists.

North East ISD

San Antonio’s second-largest school district approved more than $8 million in staff pay raises. Teachers and librarians will receive a salary increase of $1,150, making the starting salary for teachers $55,300.

NEISD professional staff, such as principals and other administrators, will receive a 1% salary increase based on the midpoint of their pay scales, which also will be increased overall by 0.5%. Nurses and counselors will receive a 2% pay raise based on the midpoint of their pay grades, and auxiliary staff will see a 3% pay increase, also based on the midpoint of their pay scales.

San Antonio ISD

San Antonio ISD trustees recently reversed course and ratified a 3% pay increase for all full-time staff, in addition to retention bonuses for certain positions, at a cost of almost $15 million.

In May, trustees voted for a tiered pay increase in which campus-based personnel would receive a 3% increase, administrators like campus principals would get a 2% hike and department-based staff making over $100,000 would receive a 1% pay boost. 

Trustees voted 5-1 at a June 4 special board meeting to increase the pay raises to 3% for all full-time, permanent employees, at the recommendation of Superintendent Jaime Aquino.

Annual stipends for bilingual and special education teachers increased from $2,000 to $3,000. Pay rates for substitutes and part-time employees also increased. Pay for new part-time employees will jump from $9.25 per hour to $12 per hour.

The board also approved a $500 longevity stipend for permanent, full-time employees after completion of 15 years of service with the district.

Southside ISD

New teachers in Southside ISD, among the area’s smallest districts with 5,600 students, will start out earning $59,135 a year for the 2022-23 school year. The salary appears to be the highest in the region, an increase of $3,000 from the previous school year. But teachers can earn up to $3,000 more throughout the school year by meeting five goals established by the district, including meeting grading deadlines 90% of the time and ensuring students’ progress is tracked. Teachers earn the first $1,000 bonus at the beginning of the school year and then another $1,000 at the end of each semester if they have met the five goals, district spokesman Randy Escamilla said.

Edgewood ISD

In the Edgewood school district, new teachers will start out earning $56,500 for the 2022-23 school year, after the school board approved increasing teacher salaries by an average of 3% from the midpoint.

New teachers also will receive a $3,000 sign-on bonus, and certified bilingual teachers will earn an $8,000 stipend that will be paid out over 24 months. Other teachers, depending on their years of service, can earn between $200 to $1,500 in retention stipends.

The school board also adopted a 3.5% pay increase on the midpoint for all full-time staff and a 2.5% increase from the midpoint for district administrators.

“As part of our focus of serving and supporting EISD staff, our team of eight, which includes the board and superintendent, wanted to continue to show our appreciation to our staff taking into account the numerous conversations and feedback via staff surveys, superintendent one-on-one visits, and district leadership recommendations,” Superintendent Eduardo Hernández said in a statement.

Judson ISD

The Judson board of trustees approved about $11.8 million in raises for staff that Superintendent Jeanette Ball said are likely the largest pay increases the district has ever implemented.

The 2022-23 compensation plan includes a 6% raise for all teachers, as well as auxiliary and clerical staff. Professional staff, which includes principals and coordinators, will receive a 4% raise.

Additionally, teachers and professional staff will receive a $1,000 stipend, while auxiliary staff, which includes bus drivers, will get two $1,000 stipends — one in December and one in June.

With the pay raises, a new teacher will start at $57,362 for the 2022-23 school year. Teachers started at $53,712 last school year.

Harlandale ISD

Teachers in Harlandale will receive a 2% pay increase based on their current salary, plus a retention stipend of $1,300 for the 2022-23 school year. The starting salary for Harlandale teachers is currently $55,500.

Clerical and paraprofessional staff also will receive a 2% pay increase from the midpoint and a retention stipend of $1,300. Professional staff, which includes principals and assistant principals, also will get a 2% pay increase from the midpoint and a $1,100 retention stipend.

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.