State Ruling Backs McAllen AFT on District’s Duty to Pay Salary-Step Increases

Texas AFT’s local affiliate in McAllen ISD has won a significant victory in a legal battle to get the district to give teachers their full 2009-2010 pay raise as required by state law. This week an administrative law judge with the Texas Education Agency ruled in McAllen AFT’s favor, supporting the union’s contention that the district violated state law last year when it failed to award them their full local increase as called for under the local salary schedule. The 2009 state school-finance law not only provided a state-funded pay raise averaging about $800 for teachers, it also required that they receive whatever additional increase they were due under the local salary schedule. But in most instances McAllen ISD did not follow the law and deprived teachers of their local salary-schedule increase, spurring McAllen AFT to challenge the practice with a grievance.

“McAllen ISD chose to try and game the system and short teachers on their raise,” said McAllen AFT President Ruth Skow. “This ruling points out what is crystal clear in the law, that the state raise passed by the legislature is in addition to required local salary-schedule raises. It’s mind-boggling to think why the district would choose to fight the obvious intent of the law.”

Should the preliminary ruling stand, McAllen teachers on average could receive about $600 in back pay, with some receiving more than $1,000. Other professionals covered by the pay-raise requirement include librarians, counselors, nurses, and speech pathologists.

District officials contend that paying the local raise on top of the state pass-through raise could have an adverse impact on the district’s budget. As Skow points out, however, had the district followed the law to begin with it could have planned for budget impacts and accommodated the required raises, rather than “continuing to press on with a flimsy legal objections.” Says the union president: “The law is the law and the district should have been professional in implementing the proper pay raises and developing budgets around those salaries….Let’s hope the district uses common sense and does what’s right by accepting the ruling, rather than wasting more taxpayer dollars fighting teacher pay raises that were implemented properly by other districts throughout the rest of the state.”