Educators Find Salary Increases Disappointing

EPISD Board of Trustees vote discuss and take action on the Proposed 2017–2018 Employee Compensation Package.

Teachers are not satisfied with an approved 4 percent increase in their salaries.

The El Paso Independent School District board of trustees voted to give teachers a raise on their salaries and for other EPISD employees which will cost an estimated $9.9 million during Wednesday night’s meeting. Teachers and advocates say the raise is not an adequate compensation to match the cost of living.

Board trustees arranged for all EPISD departments to make budget cuts in order to fund a compensation package for teachers, counselors, student activity managers, nurses, speech pathologists, audiologists, and for professional and administration employees.

“Yes, Mr. Geske. They could’ve done better,” Ross Moore, president of the American Federation of Teachers said.

The board had two options to choose from and opted to give teachers a 4 percent raise and offer salaries for new teachers starting at $48,300. Teachers with 30 years employment with EPISD will receive $1,986 dispersed throughout the year or $61,960, whichever is higher.

Teachers will see the increases starting in July, an EPISD spokesperson said.

That’s not good enough, Norma De La Rosa the president of the El Paso Teacher’s Association told this reporter. She said it will most likely be used to pay for the rising cost in the district’s healthcare plans with Aetna Insurance.

Ross Moore, president of the American Federation of Teachers, expressed dissatisfaction during a public comment. The AFT and teachers were demanding a 5 percent raise, he said.

Teachers at EPISD are rumored to be leaving to other Independent School Districts because of low morale, data driven instruction and uncompetitive wages. De La Rosa said the raise does not make the teacher’s wages competitive with nearby school districts.

During the meeting, city staff mentioned EPISD is second to last in wage compensation only above Bernillo Independent School District’s in the area.

District 1 trustee Bob Geske asked if the school district could do better. City staff said, for now, no.

Moore had a different view.

“Yes, Mr. Geske. They could’ve done better,” he said.

The salary schedule under the compensation package will distribute $150, annually to new teachers until they have taught for six years. After, teachers will be paid a little more than $500 throughout the year.

The school district is struggling to shake off the fog left by the former school board and its employees involved in allegedly frauding standardized test scores. Those employees are testifying in court this week.

Superintendent Juan Cabrera was reported to have spent $90,000 during trips to conventions by the El Paso Times.

During public comments, teachers and residents made sure to remind Cabrera about their discontent with his travel expenses.

The district is also struggling financially, according to city staff. During a presentation, city staff revealed that the district is losing 1,000 students a year which amounts to a $30.6 million loss after five years.

District 2 board trustee Al Velarde mentioned the district did not benefit from the last State Legislature session.

According to the city’s numbers the district anticipates receiving 62 percent of its 2017–2018 general fund revenue from the state, 34.86 percent from its local tax base, and 3.11 percent from the federal government.

Board president Dori Fenenbock admitted the district is experiencing financial difficulty but is committed to fixing its problems. She alluded to the El Paso Times’ reports about the District and its spending habits.

“What gets published is not the full story,” she said.