Fort Worth

Teacher pay raises included in Fort Worth schools’ proposed $821.5 million budget

The Fort Worth school board is expected to vote on an estimated $821.5 million general fund budget Tuesday that gives teachers and employees a pay boost while investing in campus programs.

That budget, which doesn’t include the state’s recent House Bill 3 compensation plan, outlines spending for the upcoming school year. It includes teacher raises and stipends for bilingual educators.

An estimated $18.4 million is part of a compensation package that includes teacher raises, pay grade adjustments, increased beginning teacher salaries and bilingual stipends. The district has been exploring a compensation package for months even before Texas lawmakers approved House Bill 3, a school finance bill includes funds for teacher raises.

This preliminary budget is based on local tax revenue, including a 7.5% increase in taxable property values and state dollars based on attendance. The district’s enrollment is 82,601 with an average daily attendance of 74,800.

The budget calls for a 2% raise for teachers and employees at the midpoint of every pay grade. There are 11,930 employees in the district.

Also, an estimated $562,500 will increase starting pay for entry-level teachers — from $53,000 to $54,000.

Budget expenditures

The proposed budget includes $985,000 to expand several “Schools of Choice” programs. The district plans to add a grade 12 level for the World Languages Institute next school year. The district is also adding 10th and 11th grade programs to the I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and VPA.

The academy is part of Fort Worth’s downtown skyline near Interstate 30 and Interstate 35. The campus is a state-of-the-art building that includes a renovated I.M. Terrell, a historical structure that was once a school for African-American students during segregation.

The academy opened last school year with a freshmen class of students who attended specialized programs in STEM and visual performing arts. Each year, a new incoming class is expected be added.

The budget also includes $106,000 to support Polytechnic High School. That campus, which is labeled a “turnaround campus,” received back-to-back “improvement required” accountability ratings from the state for the last two school years.

The state requires the district to implement an improvement plan to help lift Polytechnic’s performance on state tests.

Tobi Jackson, the school board trustee who represents Polytechnic High School, said the funding will focus on strengthening the campus through student and staff development.

“What we will see at POLY are funds invested wisely to support POLY today and into the future,” Jackson said in a text message.

About $152,000 will pay for three college and career coaches who serve students at the campus level.

The district has budgeted $1.5 million for special education and $544,000 for the Division of Equity and Excellence. The latter will pay for an executive director and three equity specialists who will write curriculum and support campuses as they work to embed lessons through an equity lens.

Equity means giving all students the tools to be successful. It is not synonymous with equality.

“How do we change so we can make sure we are achieving equitable outcomes for all children,” explained Sherry Breed, the district’s chief of equity and excellence.

HB 3 unknowns

Earlier this year, the House and Senate unanimously approved House Bill 3, also referred to as the “Texas Plan,” calling it key legislation that includes $6.5 billion more for public education and $5.1 billion for tax cuts. This measure goes into effect Sept. 1.

Under HB 3, about $2 billion over the next two years would pay for raises for teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors.

Recent presentations to the Fort Worth school board outlined different revenue projections the district might receive under HB 3. Amounts ranged from about $61.3 million to $47.6 million.

District officials indicated there were still too many unknowns, so the HB 3 funds were not included in the budget up for review Tuesday.

“It’s going to take a little time for that bill to be reviewed and for us to know with certainty what it says,” Elsie Schiro, chief financial officer for the district, told the board this month.

The tax rate is expected to go down. The district’s current overall tax rate of $1.352 per $100 valuation. Under HB 3, the new tax rate is expected to be $1.282 per $100 valuation.

Under the lower tax rate, the tax bill for a $200,000 home without a homestead exemption would be $2,564. That would result in a school tax savings of $140 for 2020.

Once the district finishes interpreting HB 3, the board will amend the budget to reflect changes with the compensation allotment. The board plans to adopt a tax rate in August.

On Monday, the Texas Education Agency announced it launched a web series and information site aimed at helping districts implement HB 3.

“House Bill 3 is a groundbreaking and innovative piece of legislation,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a news release. “This new law has been designed to support our teachers, focus on learning and student outcomes, increase funding and equity, and reduce property taxes.”

If you go:

The meeting is set to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Fort Worth school district’s board complex, 2903 Shotts St.

Star-Telegram reporter Anna Tinsley contributed to this report.

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