Dallas ISD’s proposed $ 1.8 billion budget includes money to raise minimum wage and respond to COVID-19 slide

Dallas administrators are expected to approve a $ 1.8 billion budget that tackles the COVID-19 learning slide for students, increases the district’s minimum wage and spends millions on overhauling the discipline system.

But that doesn’t include a major general raise for teachers who have been pushing for the boost to be especially needed after a tiring and difficult year.

Drafting the budget, which will pass on June 24, has been no easy feat as the amount of money Dallas schools have to work with next fall has changed dramatically in recent months.

School leaders feared they would have to dip into DISD savings to fund the ambitious venture of helping students recover from the many disruptions of the pandemic.

“We had the legislature. We had the Feds, ”said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “The authorities were going to give us the money, and the legislature said we will send you a notice of how later. “

This spring, state officials announced that billions of various federal pandemic aid would soon be on its way to school districts in Texas. Dallas is expected to receive up to $ 785 million and is expected to spend a large chunk of it before September 2023.

The district plans to use the federal money in a number of ways, including a large-scale initiative that will bring 1,800 tutors into classrooms and pay for COVID-19-related expenses dating back to March 2020.

Dallas principals have until the end of July to complete their application with full details on how all of the funding will be spent. Districts can only access their money after state officials approve the request.

Salary increases

One of Dallas ‘major teachers’ unions, Alliance-AFT, has demanded that the district grant big pay increases to employees.

In May, the group called for a 7% increase for teachers to offset stagnant salaries and cost of living inflation during the pandemic and a 5% increase for support staff with a 1,000 bonus. $.

“We give 212% of efforts to serve our students, and we should have affordable and quality health care, a ventilation system that brings in fresh air and time to take care of our mental and physical health” Brenda Jackson, a teacher at JP Starks Math Science and Technology Vanguard, told the board at a meeting in May where dozens of educators expressed support for the Alliance’s proposal.

But the 7% increase was not included in the final draft budget. The average teacher will receive an increase of 2.2% to 2.6%, district staff said Thursday.

Teachers receiving a salary increase from the Teacher Excellence Initiative, or TEI, would receive increases of between $ 1,250 and $ 2,000 depending on their level of effectiveness. The total cost of this salary increase for all TEI-eligible employees is $ 17.1 million.

The budget will move the district’s minimum wage from $ 12.12 to $ 13.50. The increase, if passed as planned, will impact about 7,300 employees – including teacher assistants, food service employees and custodians, according to district staff.

The move is in line with the federal government’s discussion to raise the national minimum wage to $ 15 by 2025. Dallas ISD is using this timeline as a guide for its own increases, said CFO Dwayne Thompson. This salary increase will cost DISD approximately $ 19.5 million.

Administrator Maxie Johnson urged the district to consider an accelerated timetable to raise the minimum wage.

“It’s something I’ve been asking for since I was on the board,” Johnson said. “The support staff… they are often the backbone of the school. “

At least one administrator has been skeptical that the district could afford the overall salary increases in the years to come.

“My big question is, are we going to be able to continue supporting this?” asked trustee Joyce Foreman in May.

The district can maintain the salary increases for at least the next four years by relying on revenues from a 2018 tax rate hike approved by voters, Thompson replied.

Student programs

DISD has budgeted nearly $ 1.8 million in funding for career institutes that aim to give students more hands-on experience in growing industries and $ 4.8 million for the racial equity office. of the district.

Approximately $ 4 million will be spent on overhauling the DISD disciplinary system. At Thursday’s meeting, school trustees supported a proposal to eliminate school suspensions as an option for minor infractions, such as dress code violations or disruption of the classroom.

Instead, the proposal would give educators a new option for responding to bad behavior – reset centers. These centers would open on more than 50 campuses as a new place where students could work on behavioral issues while maintaining academic progress through distance learning.

Dallas ISD administrators are expected to ban suspensions - both in and out of school - as a potential repercussion for most offenses.

The district plans to hire coordinators for each center and train them in restorative practices – which aim to empower students to resolve conflicts on their own – so they can replicate the training for the rest of the staff at the center. their campus.

The budget also includes approximately $ 2 million to better address the socio-emotional learning and mental health needs of students.

A lower tax rate

The DISD property tax rate is expected to decrease as property values ​​have increased.

The rate should be set at $ 1.27 per $ 100 of assessed property value, down from $ 1.29.

The Dallas ISD is also expected to owe more recovery payments to the state.

Much of the funding for Texas public schools comes from local property tax revenues. The state operates a clawback system – commonly referred to as ‘Robin Hood’ – which requires ‘asset-rich’ districts with higher land values ​​to submit payments to the state which are then redistributed to ‘asset-poor’ neighborhoods. .

DISD is considered to be a “wealthy neighborhood”. It will pay the state about $ 58.6 million in the 2020-2021 school year, which is an increase of about $ 39.5 million from the previous year.

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The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation on pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network , Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.

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