Balance, Budget and Everything in Between Are at the Heart of the New School Year

A balanced budget, innovative educational programs and competitive salaries are at the top of the list for the 2023-2024 school year in Alief ISD. Our stakeholders support the district’s initiatives through their tax dollars every year and it is our charge to use those funds wisely; while simultaneously providing our community with students that will be productive citizens and future leaders.

The district hosted several budget workshops, open to the public, ahead of the 2023-2024 school year. The meetings were designed to provide staff and stakeholders with first-hand knowledge of the district’s financial outlook. The impact of declining student enrollment, public education trends, district programs, infrastructure, the ending of ESSER, unfunded mandates from the state and more were discussed. From those meetings, the district created the budget, which was later approved by the Board.

We began the year strong with the announcement of an across-the-board salary increase. Most employees, including teachers, saw an increase of three percent at midpoint, which translated to $2,000 for teachers. Starting salaries for teachers increased to $62,000, making it the fourth highest starting salary in the Houston area. There was only a $52 difference between the district and the third place winner.

Support staff saw an increase of eight percent at midpoint for custodians, groundskeepers, bus attendants, crossing guards, receptionists, aides, clerks and similar positions; making it one of the highest in the area and some food service employees saw even more of a pay raise through job restructuring and recategorizing.

Not only is the district competitive in teacher pay, but in police officer base salary as well; which is important for officer recruitment and retention due to HB3. The district also offers stipends for K-9 handlers and significant overtime opportunities.

The district also has the second lowest employee monthly insurance premium and annual insurance plan premiums. With rising insurance costs statewide, this is a major win for the district and a cost savings for our employees.

The 2023-2024 pay schedule included increases for the people who keep schools going; in and out of the classroom. Groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, bus attendants, clerks and others essential to the district will see higher paychecks, as will teaching staff, on their September 29th paychecks. In addition, employees who have been with the district will see a retention bonus at the end of September ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, and new teachers with bilingual certification will receive up to $3,000. The increases are part of the revised compensation plan approved by the school board last spring. Board president Dr. Darlene Breaux noted employee pay was a priority for the board.

“As we looked at our financial priorities for the budget year, it was important to the Board that we honor the staff’s hard work and commitment to our students,” Dr. Breaux said. “Allocating funds for a raise was imperative to our continued success.”

In addition, Alief is offering a $1,000 referral bonus to employees who recruit certified teachers for the district. The district began the school year with only 24 teacher vacancies and continues its efforts to provide high quality, certified teachers for every classroom.

“The retention bonuses and the pay raise have been great incentives,” Samson Varughese, Olle Middle School robotics teacher said. “They have helped to alleviate some of the issues created by inflation over the recent years and it feels really good to be appreciated for the work that we do.”

Though every financial decision may not be as pleasant, the district continues to examine ways to remain competitive, despite funding challenges affecting most of the state’s school districts. The goal to remain financially solvent in spite of those challenges is what keeps us going.

“I am proud of the work of the Alief team and the sacrifice everyone has made to help us afford to give raises and have a balanced budget,” Dr. Anthony Mays, Superintendent of Schools said. “These are difficult decisions, so we appreciate the support for the tough choices that have to be made.”

K9 Unit a Great Addition to Alief ISD Police Department

House Bill 3 (HB3) in Texas added a new section to the Texas Education Code 37.0814. This new section mandates school boards to determine the appropriate number of armed security officers required for each campus, unless there is a valid reason for an exemption. This approach allows school boards to tailor security measures based on the unique needs of their schools. Additionally, the bill requires the presence of a security officer during school hours. HB3, which was approved by the Texas legislature in May and goes into effect on September 1, 2023, requires an armed officer on every campus.

HB3 relates to measures as it pertains to ensuring public school safety. Part of the framework for school board development is to approve a budget that maximizes resources and to approve goals, policies, and programs that ensures a safe and orderly learning environment. “As Alief ISD Board President I am committed to working collaboratively with the district to ensure that our students and staff are priority when it comes to providing a physically and mentally safe place for teaching and learning” stated Dr. Darlene Breaux, President of Alief ISD Board of Trustees.

The safety and security allotment in the state funding formulas provided approximately $360,000 in 2022-23. The district budgeted approximately $7.5 million for safety and security in the general fund prior to any new requirements for 2023-24 due to HB3. This does not include any bond funds used for safety and security upgrades in addition to general fund dollars. With HB3, Alief’s projected safety and security allotment is projected to be just over $1 million in 2023-24; an increase of approximately $700,000. The state funding increased from $9.72 per student to $10 per student and $15,000 per campus. This increase does not fund the mandates in the bill. School districts are currently struggling to meet the requirements of HB3 due to budget limitations.

Many school districts are facing challenges in hiring officers due to increased demand. Currently, Alief ISD has officers permanently stationed to secondary campuses. “Alief ISD has its own police department and is taking steps to enhance security measures in response to the requirements of HB3,” assured Dr. Anthony Mays, AISD Superintendent. “Hiring certified police officers and providing training help to aid in ensuring familiarity with district procedures and is a proactive approach to maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff.”

The district is prioritizing safety and taking proactive measures to create a secure learning environment. The deployment of K9 units can indeed be a significant step in enhancing security within the schools. K9 officers can provide a visible presence that deters potential threats and offers reassurance to both students and staff.

“Patrolling 12 schools in a day with K9 units shows a commitment to comprehensive coverage and a rapid response if any security issues arise,” according to AlSD Chief of Police, Dan Turner. “Additionally, using K9 units that are trained to interact well with children and the school environment is crucial to ensure that their presence doesn’t cause unnecessary anxiety or fear among students.”

The addition of the K9 unit in Alief ISD will be beneficial on many levels, but most importantly, as a testament to the district’s commitment to ensuring our students and staff have a safe environment they can call home.