Austin ISD may phase out teaching positions

“There’s no way to find $87 million without cutting staff,” Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD principals will phase out 250 positions to balance next year’s budget.

The district said it wanted to reallocate much of the money it would save with the changes to employees through pay raises.

The district plans to prioritize higher hourly pay and base teacher pay. He also wants to allocate the money to more planning time for teachers.

“Our district has not had a balanced budget in over five years,” Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said. “When you spend more and have more staff, you will have a deficit.”

Elizalde stressed the importance of not tapping into district savings again. For several years, enrollment has been declining, which means the district receives less funding and the budget is more difficult to balance.

“If we keep doing this, we’ll be bankrupt by 2024-25,” she said. “There’s a solution, and it’s hard, and that’s I have to cut staff. We have to do this, and there’s no way to find $87 million without cutting staff.”

Austin ISD hasn’t said exactly which positions will be cut, but speaking about the budget earlier, Elizalde said she wants to avoid cuts that affect classroom learning.

This decision follows discussion at a board briefing on Thursday evening, February 10. To listen to the budget presentation, tune in at 3:49:00 p.m. on Facebook Live below:

Some educators, like Alyssa Potasznik, said they needed more support.

“I’m at the point where I’m worried about my ability to get through the year,” Potasznik said.

After 12 years as an educator, Potasznik leaves after this year. She added that she appreciates what the district is trying to do, but with the pandemic, the problems teachers were already facing have worsened.

“The increase in salary is far outweighing the reduction in planning time, combined with the increased cost of living, especially in the Austin area,” Potasznik said.

In a statement on Wednesday, February 23, Elizalde asked for community support.

“We’re going to have to struggle, and I need your help,” Elizalde said. “I need you to help others through the struggle.”

At the February 10 board meeting, AISD leaders discussed priorities for the 2023 budget.

Budget priorities include:

  • Increase hourly wage to $16 per hour for classified employees and bus drivers
  • Increase teacher base salary by $1,000
  • Increase teacher salaries by 2%
  • Evaluate central office budgets
  • Reduce overall headcount due to declining enrollment

“We have to think about every employee in the district,” Ken Zarifis said.

Zarifis is the president of Education Austin, the union representing employees in the district. He said they were working to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour.

“I think we have to be really ambitious about what we want our employees to be able to earn. An hourly worker, a bus driver, a guard, how the hell can they survive in this city? I have no idea We have to do better with them,” Zarifis said.

The budget is expected to be approved in June.

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