HISD board members want all employees paid at least $15 an hour

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Independent School District trustees were, at times, heated Tuesday while discussing the upcoming 2019-2020 budget.

The board specifically became upset when they began to talk about raises for teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, school bus drivers, lunch staff and other employees.

RELATED: Texas Senate passes bill giving teachers $5,000 raise

Board members ultimately were unable to come to an agreement on the proposed budget, which failed in a 6-3 vote.

State law requires the budget to be approved by the end of the month as the fiscal year begins July 1.

Trustee Elizabeth Santos, who voted against the proposed budget, asked the district's chief financial officer to provide the board with a more detailed breakdown of the budget and compensation package ahead of the board's next meeting on June 27.

The district is required to provide raises to certain employees after the 86th Legislature passed House Bill 3, a public school finance measure that was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month.

"HB 3's intention is to honor our students and our employees," Santos said during Tuesday's meeting. "If administration gets a raise, it should be no higher than what's given to the lowest paid employee."

The three board members who voted to approve the proposed budget said they should at least approve the budget well before the deadline, and address concerns about raises at a later date.

The proposed budget would have offered pay raises to teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors and evaluation specialists based on their years of service, starting with a 3.5 percent raise for teachers with up to three years of experience. Teachers who have been with the district more than 25 years would have received an eight percent raise.

Assistant principals, principals and deans would also receive raises ranging from 3.5 percent to five percent based on their years of experience. All bus drivers would receive a minimum pay of $18 an hour and all other employees would receive a 3.5 percent raise.

However, trustees argued that the 3.5 percent raise would mean little to those employees who are only making $12 an hour, and advocated for all employees to be paid at least $15 an hour.

Houston ISD Chief Financial Officer Rene Barajas said bringing all employees to that pay rate would require layoffs.

About three hours into the budget discussion, trustee Jolanda Jones said if the budget didn't pass she likely wouldn't be available to attend another long meeting to discuss the budget in detail.

"Nothing we did before HB3 mattered. Nothing," Jones said. "(The Texas Education Agency) has not even figured out what the interpretation (of HB 3) means. Anything we pass, I believe, is subject to change."

Jones, who voted in favor of the proposed budget, was clearly frustrated when it was rejected.

The proposed budget also included an additional $6 million to address the mental and physical health of students, including food insecurity, housing, and parent incarceration, according to HISD.
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