AISD Teachers Rally for Living Wage and More Planning Time
By Eniola Longe
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Participants at the “At What Cost” rally on April 28 chanted “hey hey ho ho, [Superintendent Stephanie] Elizalde’s got to go!” and held signs with statements like “All classified workers deserve a $6.50 pay raise” as they expressed dissatisfaction and impatience with the Austin Independent School District.
Organized by Education Austin, the labor union for employees of the school district, the rally brought teachers, bus drivers, librarians, parents, students, and other supporting organizations to the grounds of the district’s headquarters.
“A two percent pay raise for teachers only, and it’s not even enough,” Education Austin president Ken Zarifis said. “They’re not paying counselors, librarians or other contracted personnel. It’s not enough, and it’s ridiculous.”
Amid the rising costs of living in Austin, the group wants a living wage, and is demanding nothing less than a $6.50 per hour pay raise.
In its 2022 Income Limits, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development put the median income for a family of four in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area at $110,300. This is an 11.5% increase from 2021.
AISD teachers and librarians make between $51,000 – $63,000 per year. New bus drivers can now expect to receive a yearly salary of $31,000, with increases up to $39,000 for drivers with over 26 years of experience, according to an announcement on the district’s website.
These figures fall into HUD’s categories of low and extremely low income.
Zarifis said in his 25 years in the district, this school year has had the most people leaving before the end of the session.
Human capital data on the district’s website shows a total of 251 employees resigned in March 2022, with more than 50 resignations in the last week of March alone.
A pay raise is not Education Austin’s only demand. The union is also fighting for more planning time, a $1,000 stipend for attending reading academies, overtime pay, payment for elementary substitute teachers, and a schedule change for all high school teachers.
“They are struggling with teaching two to three grades right now which is unacceptable,” parent Eva Aguilara said. “I think with all of our voices coming together and uniting we will make a difference here.”
Aguilara got involved in education activism after her numerous evaluation requests to the school district for her second grade son who is on the autism spectrum fell on deaf ears.
“I had to do everything myself,” she said.
She is concerned about her son’s educational development since he is sometimes put in classes with and given assignments for students a year above his grade level.
“Teacher welfare is very important for academic success of students,” said Joshua Childs, a professor in the department of educational leadership and policy at the University of Texas at Austin.
Childs trains student leaders to support and provide resources for teachers to help them thrive in the classroom.
“The number one reason why teachers leave the profession isn’t because of pay, or because of issues inside of classrooms or parents,” Childs said. “It’s actually more lack of support from leaders within their school building and from a district level.”
The school board is expected to vote on the budget in June.
Gail Buhler, the union’s staff director said Education Austin will meet with school board members, hold a town hall meeting, and have additional rallies at May’s school board meeting pending the decision.