HISD budget slates modest teacher pay hike

Under its May 15 budget proposal, the Houston Independent School District recommends a 3.4 percent raise for new teachers. The plan includes smaller raises for experienced teachers and eliminates elevated salaries for advanced-degree holders.

During the current school year, teachers with less than four years’ experience are in step 1 of the salary schedule and make $46,800. That salary is among the lowest among the 17 districts in Texas region 4 Independent School Districts (districts in the Houston Metro area)

The proposed raise would push starting salaries to $48,400, which would still likely leave HISD’s teachers in the lower third of school districts regarding entry-level compensation. The Aldine, Alief, Fort Bend, Cy Fair and Galena Park independent school districts have already approved starting salaries of $50,000 or more for their entry-level teaching staff.

Only Spring and Pasadena ISDs have proposed new-hire pay levels lower than Houston for the next year.

“To remain competitive and to retain teachers we must find ways to increase teacher compensation,” HISD spokesperson Sheleah Reed wrote in an e-mail interview on May 21.

Houston Federation of Teachers’ President Gayle Fallon said the HFT was disappointed in the proposal.

“They have not come close to closing the gap with suburban districts,” she wrote in a May 20 e-mail to Thesis.

HISD would also recalibrate the existing pay scale so that all teachers earned at least a $900 raise, even if they ended up getting slotted into a slightly different step than they do under the current scale, Reed said

The highest salary a teacher with a bachelor’s degree can earn in HISD is $68,856 for an instructor with 33 years or more of experience.

The other major change in the proposal is to eliminate the salary lanes for new hires of teachers who hold Master’s or doctoral degrees. Currently, new teachers with Master’s degrees make $47,876, while doctoral degree holders make $48,948, which represent respective increases of $974 and $2,148 over a bachelor degree holder. Those differences widen with experience.

Reed said that the district was still committed to encouraging professional development, but was recommending eliminating the salary differences because they believe research shows that student achievement does not increase as teachers earn graduate degrees.

Fallon opposes the initiative to end higher salary lanes for advanced degree holders.

“It is somewhat hypocritical for an educational institution to place no value on advanced degrees,” she said,  She suggested she could see the point of limiting access to advanced lanes for only degrees relevant to a teacher’s subject area or pedagogy, but dismissed the current administration proposal as “senseless.”

HISD’s current teacher salary schedule is here.

Reed declined to provide a copy of the proposed schedule, emphasizing that it needed to be approved by the board of education.

The changes would cost $20 million of the $1.74 billion in planned appropriations under HISD’s 2014-2015 budget proposal.

The plan would be paid for in part by the reallocation of $6 million from the district’s controversial ASPIRE program, which awards teachers for having students with greater-than-expected gains in standardized test scores. ASPIRE is part of the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Houston Federation of Teachers against HISD over the district’s use of value-added measures to determine teacher ratings and bonuses.

HFT’s Fallone said she was pleased that the district was redistributing money from the ASPIRE program to base pay, but hopes HISD goes further.

“We would rather see all the money in ASPIRE  transferred into base salary so we could approach equity with the suburbs,” she said.

See HISD’s May 15 budget workshop presentation for more details about the teacher pay proposal. Page 4 contains information comparing pay across regional districts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated on May 21 at 4 p.m. to reflect comments from representatives of the Houston Federation of Teachers and HISD.

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