San Antonio/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 21, 2024
South San Antonio ISD Approves 2% Teacher Raise, Faces $6.2 Million Deficit Amid Budget CrisisSource: Google Street View

In a pivotal move amid financial strain, the South San Antonio Independent School District (South San ISD) board of trustees approved a 2% raise for teachers, escalating its projected deficit to $6.2 million. The district is operating against the clock to balance its budget, with a state takeover on the horizon if it fails to do so. This decision, which also includes larger raises for bus drivers and child nutrition specialists, comes as part of a struggle to keep competitive with neighboring districts.

The larger financial picture for the district appeared grim, with officials citing the need to remain in step with other districts like the San Antonio Independent School District and Northside Independent School District, which also adopted budget deficits to grant similar salary increases. However, according to a San Antonio Report interview, trustee Abel Martinez has seen signs of meteoric improvement, pressing for heightened academic goals as students inch toward current benchmarks.

While other districts such as Boerne ISD took a more measured approach, adopting a 1.5% raise for their teachers, South San's situation is particularly acute. The board had previously agreed to a settlement with the Texas Education Agency to end investigations into board dysfunction that involved oversight by a conservator and strict improvement criteria, including the mandate to adopt a balanced budget or face replacement by a state-appointed board.

Despite the immediate threat of financial dire straits, and a ballooning deficit, there's a silver lining with marked improvement in student performance and governance practices. The San Antonio Report highlighted substantial progresses, including slashing the deficit nearly in half and recent standardized test scores that surpassed state and regional growth levels. Abe Saavedra, the appointed conservator, was not available for direct comment.

The trade-offs for these new raises have led to cuts elsewhere, such as a reduction in stipends for math and science teachers, which dropped from $6,000 to $4,000. Tapping into the general fund has been a necessary move to cover the cost of these raises. Board President Manuel Lopez expressed the district's tough financial position: "We're trying to keep this district open and alive with our heads above water," Lopez said. "If we had more money, we would give you more money. We just don't have it."