The Austin Chronicle

Stanching the Flow of AISD Teachers Straight Out of Town

Education Austin demands higher pay for teachers and support staff

By Brant Bingamon, March 17, 2023, News

"I don't want to leave Austin," said Traci Dunlap, a kindergarten teacher at Maplewood Elementary School. "But what are my choices?"

Dunlap posed the question at a Downtown rally on March 12 as her union, Education Austin, kicked off its "We Know Our Worth" campaign to demand better pay for teachers and support personnel in the Austin Independent School Dis­trict. Dunlap told the audience that she and her colleagues are now paid less than they were 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation. As a result, many have been driven outside the city by skyrocketing living expenses. Those who are still here are barely making it. "Most teachers I know work a second job," Dunlap said. "But one job should be enough. This is not sustainable." To address the increasing cost of living, Education Austin is asking for a $12-per-hour pay raise for custodians, bus drivers, and other Austin ISD employees who are paid by the hour, and a 12% increase in base pay for teachers, counselors, and librarians.

"They know their worth, they know their value," said Ken Zarifis, Education Austin's president. "And coming out of the pandemic they know even more … No principal, no superintendent, no associate superintendent, no chief carried this district through the pandemic. It is the bus drivers, the custodians, the teachers, the TAs – it is these people who carried the district through the pandemic."

In addition to pay raises, Education Austin is asking AISD to fully staff the schools, clearly define job descriptions, and place a hard cap on class sizes. "It's about taking our workload from insurmountable to manageable," said Rachel Preston, who teaches French at Bowie High School. "As a language teacher, I've never in my 12 years had the tools, resources, and support to have a manageable workload, much less a reasonable one."

Preston and her fellow union members are all too aware that heavy workloads are driving teachers out of the profession, creating a cycle where the remaining teachers continue to be overburdened. She said the only way to fix the problem is to treat teachers right. "We know our worth," Preston said. "Let's push our leadership to give us what we deserve – a reasonable workload, achievable during contract hours. That is how we can fill our vacancies and attract educators back to Austin ISD."

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