Teachers and school staff are not properly compensated for the tremendous efforts, societal impact, and critical roles we play in the lives of students and families, especially during this global pandemic. It is incumbent upon us to continue to keep people and empathy at the forefront of every decision we make, financial or otherwise.
Budgeting, Compensation & Benefits
In June 2020, the Leander ISD Board approved a benefits and compensation package that invested in employee health but delayed a pay increase for staff in light of looming funding questions ahead of the next biennium. In adopting a budget, we had to balance:
- new positions for full-day PreK, special education, and lowering class sizes at elementary school;
- a $1 million payment to the employee benefit fund that allowed us to maintain health insurance premiums and offer a $0 insurance plan;
- uncertainty of future state funding and enrollment growth during a global pandemic; and
- the historic raises given by the board in 2019, more than 7% salary increase for teachers and 4% increase for other staff in the 2019-20 school year.
In the Fall of 2020, the district has seen a net decrease in enrollment to below the numbers from the same time last year. That has a real impact on our budget and our planning.
The state will fund schools as long as we offer parents choice, including a 100% in-person learning option for all students. However, TEA is offering no additional money for the costs that we’ve incurred with the implementation of new safety protocols and the expansion of Virtual Empowered Learning.
As an alternative to offering the traditional salary increase, the Board left open the possibility for a one-time payment to all employees in November, equivalent to 2% of salary, if enrollment and economic indicators allowed for it.
One-Time Payment Option
The one-time payment is considered an additional salary paid after a contract start date, and we must legally tie the payment to specific criteria. Because the district chose enrollment as the specific criteria to trigger the one-time payment, we can only award the one-time payment if enrollment equals or exceeds 41,300 on the October PEIMS snapshot date (Oct. 30). LISD current enrollment is about 40,300 students as of this week.
We have begun contacting families who withdrew from our schools. We will be attempting to reach new families who never enrolled. The outreach is part of an effort to recapture students that are not enrolled in our school. The hope is that the district can hit the enrollment number for the Board to consider the one-time payment, but this is a tall task given the narrowing time frame and during a pandemic where we are trying to maintain health protocols and physical distancing in classrooms.
New-Hire Salary Scales
In the past week, we have fielded questions about our new hire salary scales. Like most districts, Leander ISD uses new-hire salary scales in recruiting and hiring educators. We rebuild the new-hire salary scales each year to reflect any Board-approved salary increase.
Raises for administration
Because the Board did not approve a salary increase for the 2020–21 school year, gross salaries remain the same for all employees unless employees had a change outside of base pay (for example, stipend or extra-duty pay, absence deduction, ATPE dues, etc.).
The administration didn’t include in its budget recommendation and the Board didn’t approve a salary increase for administrators over educators.
The Board approved a one-time $800 PPE Stipend payment to our eligible full-time employees as outlined in the LISD Compensation Plan. An employee who is employed as a 0.5 FTE or less received half of the payment. This was a separate check paid in December 2020 to all full-time/part-time employees who were employed by the District at the time the payment was authorized by the Board. This payment is not considered salary; therefore, it is not eligible for credit in accordance with the Teacher Retirement System.