Teachers Need Money, Too

Austin Independent School District Superintendent Pat Forgione unveiled highlights from the preliminary 2002-2003 district budget Aug. 5, sparking angry dissent from the local teacher's union.

AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione unveiled highlights from the preliminary 2002-2003 district budget on Aug. 5, sparking angry dissent from the local teacher's union. The district's been dealt a "tough deck," Forgione said, including having to pay back nearly $144 million to the state under Chapter 41 provisions. Still, according to Forgione and AISD Chief Financial Officer Larry Throm, district administrators have carved out enough money to provide for a $690 per teacher pay raise -- an average of an additional 2% across the board. "No, I'm not satisfied, I'm not happy," Forgione said about the small raise -- but that amount was all that was possible after considering everything else in the budget.

Predictably, Education Austin President Louis Malfaro and Vice-President Bruce Banner were unhappy with the piddling raise -- less than half of the 4.8% for which the union had asked. "This is a slap in the face to the teachers who have done the work," Malfaro said Monday afternoon, outside the AISD Board Auditorium. "To be put last in the budget process like this -- it's backwards budgeting." Banner says the proposed 2% raise is actually akin to a "pay cut," as district teachers struggle to keep up with the cost of living. Teachers are the reason the district now has 48 campuses on the Texas Education Agency's list of recognized and exemplary schools and has reduced the number of low-performing schools to three, he said. "The employees earned it." Both Banner and Malfaro said EA has offered the AISD board and administration numerous suggestions to enable a more equitable teacher pay raise, but haven't seen those suggestions translated into the proposed budget.

It looks like the union has found some allies among the AISD Board of Trustees. At their Aug. 5 budget meeting, board members asked Forgione to carve out a bigger raise for teachers and staff. New board member Cheryl Bradley seemed confused that Forgione couldn't find money for larger teacher raises, yet earlier proposed a $20,000 raise for each area superintendent -- a proposal now off the table. The board is scheduled to adopt the budget at its Aug. 26 meeting.

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Austin Independent School District, Pat Forgione, Larry Throm, Education Austin, Louis Malfaro, Bruce Banner, Cheryl Bradley

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