Austin ISD would lay off hundreds of staff to give teachers raises, under proposed budget

From KUT:

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Hundreds of jobs will be cut from the Austin ISD central office to give teachers raises and to cover the district’s mammoth clawback payment, under a proposed budget for the next school year.

The district is forced to make drastic cuts in part because it receives far less money from the state. School districts receive money based on the number of students enrolled. Enrollment has been steadily declining since 2015.

The biggest changes to the budget and the reduction in our overall spending have been in staffing,” said AISD Chief Financial Officer Ed Ramos, who was tasked with making the cuts. “86% of our budget is dedicated to staff, so to have a huge impact on reducing our overall expenses, we had to take care of our staffing.”
He said the administration wanted to make these cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, so it offered to lay off 375 people from central office and other non-teaching jobs. Those layoffs would take effect this summer. The district also offered not to replace some people who had already left.

With those cuts, Ramos said, there would be more money for raises — a priority for the district, which is trying to retain teachers.

The proposed budget would add $1,000 to teachers’ base salaries and give them an overall increase of 2%. The district is also proposing to raise hourly wages for classified workers — such as custodial and teaching assistants — to $16 per hour and raise the bus driver’s wage to $21 per hour.

The proposed budget also provides funds for Title 1 schools to purchase additional instruments, sports team supplies and additional classroom supplies.

The impending recovery payment

A large part of AISD’s budget is its annual recovery payment. The gist of the clawback is this: The state requires wealthy school districts to share their property tax money with poorer school districts that don’t have access to that kind of revenue.

The state determines which districts contribute to the system based on home values ​​in the districts. As many Austin residents know, home values ​​have skyrocketed. As a result, Austin ISD now returns more than half of property taxes collected in the city to the state.

“When [recapture] started, it started with 34 districts paying $131 million,” Ramos said. “Now, with the way property values ​​have gone up statewide, there are 158 districts participating in the recovery, paying the State of Texas $3 billion.”

Austin ISD pays more in this system than any other district – far more. Over the past four years, the payout has quadrupled. Ramos says the district expects to pay $798 million next year, about half of the total proposed budget of $1.6 billion.

“Austin ISD believes in paying our fair share in the clawback system, but in the current system our share is not fair,” he said.

He and Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said they want to work with other local leaders and state officials to revamp the system.

The school board will consider the draft budget at its meeting next Thursday. A final budget vote is expected in June.

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