Waco Independent School District’s board of trustees has approved an average 3.4 percent salary increase, or $1,626, for all teachers in order to keep veteran teacher salaries up to pace with incoming recruits.

Teachers will receive the annual step increases, which range from $300 to $700 depending on the teacher’s tenure with the district.

But the pay schedule the board approved last week made considerable jumps to all teacher raises in the district, a move forced by the upgrade to incoming employees’ salaries.

Incoming teachers at Waco ISD received a 5.1 percent pay increase — or $2,000, from $43,000 to $45,000 — earlier this year after administrators complained about the difficulty in recruiting attractive candidates to the district.

By comparison, Midway ISD’s starting salary for teachers is $43,000.

This year, teachers who have been with the district one year could receive a $2,300 increase, from $43,000 to $45,300, with the increases reduced $100 to $200 for the next six years until it plateaus for all remaining teachers at $1,200, according to district reports.

Elaine Botello, Waco ISD’s executive director of human resources, said she is now satisfied with the district’s ability to recruit teachers, but wants to focus on adjusting the later-year increases to retain teachers even longer.

“It feels really good to go out there and be competitive,” Botello said.

The topic of teacher salaries as a retention tool has been discussed at length throughout the district as the board formed a plan for the tax-rate hike scheduled for election in November.

In a recent teacher workshop, some teachers lobbied for higher pay for veteran teachers, saying principals from other districts entice Waco ISD teachers with calmer classrooms and better pay.

Other teachers disagreed, saying that although students may be better behaved in other districts, Waco ISD pays the most.

Superintendent Bonny Cain said it is always a struggle to balance teacher retention and recruitment, but the board expressed concerns about how the pay increases would affect the budget overall.

“Let’s be careful about bringing this to a level we can’t sustain,” board President Pat Atkins said in a previous meeting.

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