By HISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan
Over the last few months, HISD administration has worked diligently to prepare a sound budget for the 2019-2020 school year that would provide our students with the tools they need to succeed, while keeping our district on track financially.
I am the leader of the largest school district in Texas and it is my mission that every employee in the district be treated fairly and equitably. Our students deserve the resources to be successful and so do our employees. One of my strategic priorities is attracting and retaining top talent and this proposal is a step in the right direction.
That is why I am urging the Board of Education to pass the recommended budget and approve the compensation package for all HISD staff.
The Texas Legislature recently passed sweeping school finance reform. As a result, our district has an additional $135 million in resources of which $26.9 million is mandated to increase the compensation for classroom teachers, full-time librarians, full-time counselors, and full-time nurses. The proposed compensation package presented to trustees designates $34.1 million in raises for these positions, exceeding the amount mandated under HB 3 by $7.2 million. The total cost of the full compensation package is $64 million.
A smaller percentage of the funds can be used to give raises to the remaining full-time employees. Some have not received a raise in the last three budget cycles. Our focus has been to provide a raise to the lowest-paid employees in the past three budget cycles, by increasing the minimum wage twice from $8.25 to $10 in 2015 to $12 in 2017.
It is at the district’s discretion that all employee groups receive salary increases this coming school year. HISD is the seventh-largest district in the country and one of the largest employers in the Houston metropolitan area with nearly 30,000 employees. Every single employee plays a crucial role in the success of our students.
We carefully examined the $15 an hour minimum wage for support staff, including custodians and cafeteria workers. It became clear that our district would then be operating at a multimillion-dollar deficit, over $17 million.
In the next few months, once we have a better understanding of HB3, we plan to revisit the hourly wage for our support staff.
HISD is a public entity and we must continue to be strong stewards of taxpayer dollars. HB 3 does not have a long-term funding mechanism to cover the portion of the raise funded by the Legislature, so we must create responsible proposals and reject deficit spending at the local level. The proposed budget and compensation plan exceed expectations set by the state and secures our financial future.
I value the work that our employees provide, and my priority is making sure we reward all members of HISD. In order to keep a balanced budget this is the maximum increase I can recommend at this time.
Grenita Lathan, Ph.D.
HISD Interim Superintendent