This past Thursday, June 27th, the Houston Independent School District Board of Education passed a budget for the 2019-2020 school year that will increase the district’s minimum wage from $12 an hour to $14 an hour, with a vote of 5-1.
Several trustees were not physically present for the budget vote. Trustee Holly Marie Vilaseca participated after being Skyped in, but the only African American trustees on the board – Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Jolanda Jones and Wanda Adams – were not present when the budget vote took place.
Although state law requires the budget be approved by June 30, the HISD Board had voted against the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year a few days prior, with a 6-3 vote.
HISD’s administrators had presented a balanced budget for consideration to the HISD Board of Education that included raises for every district employee and no staff reductions.
In an op-Ed that ran in the Forward Times last week, Dr. Grenita Lathan, interim HISD Superintendent, expressed a concern about the HISD Board not adhering to her initial recommended budget proposal, saying:
“Our focus has been to provide a raise to the lowest-paid employees in the past three budget cycles, by increasing minimum wage twice from $8.25 to $10 in 2015 to $12 in 2017…..It is at the district’s discretion that all employee groups receive salary increases this coming school year…..We carefully examined the $15 an hour minimum wage for support staff, including custodians and cafeteria workers. It became clear that our district would then be operating at a multi-million deficit, over $17 million……In order to keep a balanced budget this is the maximum increase I can recommend at this time.”
Those recommendations shared with the full HISD Board of Education seemed to fall on deaf ears with Trustees Sergio Lira, Diana Davila, Anne Sung, Elizabeth Santos and Vilaseca, who decided to present their own amended budget and pass it despite being over budget. Trustee Sue Deigaard voted against the amended budget.
Dr. Lathan’s recommended budget included an increase in employee compensation, an additional $6 million for wraparound services to address the mental and physical needs of students, an additional $4 million for Achieve 180, and an increase its contribution to health insurance by $7.5 million.
After rejecting Dr. Lathan’s proposal, HISD Trustees proposed and adopted an amendment that included $17 million in department cuts, with any staff reductions being offset by utilizing the fund balance. The spending plan mandates that district employees will see no increase in health insurance premiums. The approved budget also provides teachers, full-time counselors, full-time nurses, full-time librarians and other educational professionals with raises ranging from 3.5 percent to 8 percent, depending on years of service in HISD. Trustees also approved increasing bus drivers’ minimum wage to $18/an hour. The board also approved an amendment to provide no raises for staff earning more than $75,000 per year. Instead, these employees would receive a one-time bonus of $1000 and two extra vacation days.
Several other amendments were made by HISD Trustees, which administrators will be analyzing over the next several days to incorporate into the budget.