The San Antonio Independent School District’s trustees, seemingly stunned by details of a budget deficit, approved a tiered pay increase for all full-time staff for the 2022-2023 school year, pending a June 4 review of attendance and options for a teacher retention stipend. 

“This recommendation does not reflect the value we have for our people, but unfortunately, it is where we are in our current financial situation,” said Superintendent Jaime Aquino, who attended the meeting virtually as members of the San Antonio Alliance crowded the board room, advocating for smaller classrooms and pay raises with handmade signs and t-shirts. 

Aquino first recommended a 2% increase across the board, which would have cost the district $7.2 million and would have reduced the general fund balance by $11.3 million over six years. Trustees eventually settled on a 3-2-1% tiered pay increase after some on the board, along with union members, sought a 5% raise for staff. 

Campus-based personnel would receive the 3% increase, while school-based administrators get the 2% hike and the 1% boost goes to department-based staff making over $100,000. 

Trustees were shocked and had difficulty accepting details of the district’s financial constraint, which led to a long discussion as the board debated the pay increase that would be given to full-time staff. 

The struggle trustees faced came on the heels of testimonies from teachers, students, alumni and advocates who demanded at least a 5% pay raise for all full-time staff. Students said a lack of resources led friends to drop out of school because of mental health issues. Other teachers said campus social workers are not present as promised, and other teachers said school counselors were taking on administrative duties and not focusing on counseling students. 

“We have to find a balance between the human forecast, the people’s forecast, the realities of teachers that can no longer stay for another school year or principals,” said Ed Garza, trustee for District 7.

Trustee Patti Radle suggested revisiting the pay raise in December and to consider incentives to increase retention. 

“It’s not just difficult, it’s agonizing. We want so badly to affirm in some way to our teachers how much they mean to us,” said Radle. 

Before discussing the pay increase, Aquino first presented trustees with the 2022- 2023 budget projection, at which revenue assumed student enrollment would be at 45,000 students and a 90% student attendance rate, meaning that if attendance falls under 90%, budget shortfalls will be greater, Aquino said. 

That budget projection, with no action or ESSER funds, reflected a deficit in 2023 of $117 million and in 2027, would be $347 million. 

Revenue has dropped as a result of declined enrollment, which has been a pattern for many years and was exacerbated by the pandemic, according to Aquino. 

District-wide austerity measures were also implemented for the 2022-2023 school year, including cutting refreshments for staff in meetings, removing hot spots, eliminating overtime, travel, technology purchases and removing degree programs for staff, among others. 

Trustees admitted feeling pessimistic about any raise at all, as it would be either too small for staff, or too big for fiscal responsibility. The board also discussed attendance rates and how to help increase attendance among students.

“I don’t want the message to be that I don’t value our staff. On the contrary, I do. … But the reality is, 73% of our general funds go to salaries and benefits on the campuses, not central offices,” said Aquino. “That means what we are left with is 27% for all the operations of this organization.”

Budget projections with action of a 2% genuine progress indicator from 2022 to 2028, would end in a $9 million deficit. Aquino said that $9 million could be eliminated if there were a 3% increase in daily attendance, as every percentage increase gives the district $3.1 million.

Small pay increases for most substitutes were approved by trustees.

A motion also was passed by trustees to delay the full implementation of a pay system for principals to allow for equity. Part-time pay rate increases also were approved for special education management clerks and counselor clerks.

The master teacher’s extra duty stipend was eliminated, with hourly compensation being offered instead for additional time. 

Bilingual and special education stipends were increased with approval from trustees to $3,000.

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.