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Schools eye $15 minimum wage as they sink deeper into debt

By   /   March 14, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

More than $1.1 billion in debt, San Antonio schools want to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Photo by Kenric Ward

CRUMBLING FACADE: San Antonio Independent School District is headquartered in a historic Southtown schoolhouse – an aging monument to an education monopoly.

Spurred on by progressive groups — including Saul Alinsky-inspired COPS/Metro activists and the Southwest Workers Union — San Antonio Independent School District Board President Patti Radle said, “We are in this together.”

Cost of the raise, which would begin stair-stepping to $13 an hour next fiscal year, was not announced. SAISD said fewer than 1,000 of its 3,500 full-time, nonexempt workers make less than $13 per hour.

The push for higher pay comes as the district sinks deeper into the red.

Since 2010, SAISD debt has increased by $365 million — $20,250 per student – even while the schools account for half of all local property tax collections.

Meantime, the district is shrinking. Student enrollment has fallen 4.9 percent since 2004.

“SAISD taxpayers bear an elevated tax burden, which could be one of the reasons that families are leaving the district,” Texas Public Policy Foundation researchers Vance Ginn and James Quintero wrote recently.

While a higher minimum wage won’t bring students back to SAISD, the district could bolster enrollment and its reputation by replicating one of its few success stories: the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

Named “Exemplary High-Performing National Blue Ribbon School” in 2015 and perennially ranked the No. 1 middle school in San Antonio, YWLA turns away hundreds of applicants every year. Admissions for next fall have already closed.

RELATED: School monopolies a drag on downtowns

But rather than upgrading and expanding academic choice, SAISD plumbs the bottom of the barrel. It solicits bus drivers with the pitch: “Part-Time Work, Full-Time Benefits.”

“This board is anxious to pay decent wages to all its employees,” Radle told the San Antonio Express-News.

To which Ginn and Quintero replied: “It’s essential for employees to be paid based on their merits, and not the failed approach of across-the-board government-mandated raises.”

“To put it bluntly, minimum wage increases are bad public policy because they don’t incentivize productivity and they unnecessarily burden taxpayers.”

Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Contact him at [email protected] and @Kenricward.


Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining in 2012 and has won over 30 journalism awards throughout his career. His work has been published in the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Odessa American, The Monitor, Corsicana Daily Sun, Laredo Morning Times, Palestine Herald-Press, Waxahachie Daily Light, The Orange Leader, the Katy News, Fox News, Townhall, and others. Kenric is a member of the Investigative Reporters & Editors network and can be reached at [email protected]