Waco Independent School District teachers may receive higher than anticipated salary raises this school year, after administrators presented a new salary schedule to the board of trustees last week.
Initially, Waco ISD proposed an average teacher salary increase of 6.4% for the 2019-2020 school year. Administrators reviewed the schedule over the past month and proposed even further salary raises at an average of 7.6% for all teachers.
The Waco ISD school board unanimously approved the new compensation plan at a special meeting Aug. 7. It also scheduled a meeting and public hearing on Aug. 29 to discuss and possibly approve the 2019-20 proposed budget and tax rate. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.
School districts must offer raises to teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians under the recently passed school finance reform law, House Bill 3. The law devotes $11.6 billion to school finance reform, with about $6.5 billion in new public education spending and roughly $5.1 billion dedicated to lowering residents’ property tax bills, the Texas Tribune reported.
According to House Bill 3, districts and open enrollment charter schools must increase salaries for full-time staff other than administrators. Of the funds they receive, 30% must go toward these raises, and 75% of those funds must go toward raises for teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors.
Under the new compensation plan, teacher salary raises range from an increase of 5.4% for the district’s most experienced educators to 8.3% for teachers with six and seven years of experience.
Waco ISD’s new starting salary would be $49,000, up from $46,100 last school year. The district initially proposed a 2019-2020 starting salary of $48,000.
School board president Angela Tekell commended district staff for reviewing the teacher salary schedule and contributing roughly $500,000 more toward the salary raises than first proposed.
“You have raised our minimum teacher salary a significant amount since we met in June, and now the beginning salary for our brand new teachers is $49,000, which is very competitive in our region,” she said at last week’s meeting.
In all, Waco ISD plans to allocate about $5.9 million toward salary increases for teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, counselors, and auxiliary and professional support staff.
Waco ISD teachers may not receive the $5,000 raise Gov. Greg Abbott proposed at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, but many will get a $4,000 raise.
Teachers with six to 17 years of experience would receive an extra $3,600 under the proposal, and scheduled salary increases based on experience could bump that up to $4,000.
These proposed raises place Waco ISD’s teacher salaries closer to the state average. Teachers with at least two years of experience would receive an annual salary of $50,000, with salaries increasing with each year of experience. Only new teachers and those with one year of experience would earn less than $50,000 a year.
An average Texas teacher’s salary was $53,334 for the 2017-2018 school year, and teachers had an average of 10.9 years of experience on the job, according to the Texas Tribune.
“It is hard to recruit and retain teachers,” Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Elaine Botello said, “and it’s very important that we stay competitive and that we show our teachers and our staff that we value them.”
The district also proposed a 4% raise for auxiliary and paraprofessional staff and a 3% raise for administrative and professional staff. Counselors would receive a 6% raise.
Additionally, cafeteria and custodial workers’ hourly rate would increase to $11, up from $10.03, under the current proposal, and instructional aides’ hourly rate would increase to $14.14, up from $12.96.
Tekell said she does not know many people who work harder than the district’s custodial staff.
“I’m glad we’re able to at least give them a little bit more and make those salaries competitive, as well,” she said.
Waco ISD would increase the daily rate for substitutes under the budget proposal, as well. The daily rate for substitutes with teacher certifications would increase to $100 from $90. The daily rate for substitutes with a bachelor’s degree would increase to $90 from $83, and the daily rate for substitutes with a high school diploma would increase to $77 from $70.
“We are always in dire need of substitutes, and in an effort to be comparable and competitive to similar and surrounding districts, we made some little adjustments,” Botello said.
House Bill 3 also requires school districts to cap annual property tax revenue growth at 2.5%, forcing some school districts, like Waco ISD, to cut their tax rates.
Waco ISD is proposing a 10 cent decrease in its tax rate. The new tax rate would be $1.302 per $100 valuation, down from last year’s rate of $1.404. That would save the average taxpayer about $107 a year, Chief Financial Officer Sheryl Davis said.
But rising property values will negate those savings. The average home in the Waco ISD region was valued at $95,632 last year, but that value rose to $107,137 this year. That means the average taxpayer will pay about $52 more next year, Davis said.