Hays childcare workers left behind in pay equity

By Andy Sevilla

Hays CISD childcare workers complain they were left out of the latest round of pay increases, despite the issuance of at least 1.5 percent pay jumps for all other district employees last summer.

“We recently learned that as an employee group we were ineligible to receive the 1.5 percent increase that all other non-teaching employees received,” Marie Jones, director for the Early Learning Center at Buda Elementary told school board members at a February meeting. “I don’t understand that at all.”

The complaint is the latest in a deluge of alleged pay inequities and data revealing Hays CISD is one of the lowest paid districts in the area.

School board members have been pelted with complaints from counselors, assistant principals, school psychologists and other employees protesting their pay and asking for raises.

Jones said she and her colleagues have been working internally since September to fix what they believe to be an oversight.

“We are hopeful that this inequity can be corrected so that we can continue to maintain and recruit quality staff for the program that so many teachers and employees of the district depend upon for the care of their own children,” she said. 

All Hays CISD employees are eligible to enroll their children or grandchildren in any of the nine Hays Early Learning Centers, as part of their benefits package. 

The week before Jones lodged her complaint to the board, board Vice President Holly Raymond expressed an interest in ensuring no employee group is ignored as district officials continue working to bring all workers to market rates.

“I know we talked about this last week, but I was not aware that they (early learning center workers) did not receive a raise at all,” Trustee Merideth Keller said at the meeting.

Hays childcare workers are not included in the normal compensation book, and are paid from the district’s enterprise fund, therefore they were not included in the compensation plan that afforded district employees a 1.5 percent pay increase this school year, according to Human Resource Director Elaine Howard, who joined the district well after budget negotiations were finalized.

“What they have done is they have managed themselves by giving themselves their own raises,” Howard said. “Essentially, what they would do is submit individual salary change forms each year to compensate for not having been included as part of the regular (compensation plan).”

Many school board members scoffed at the reasoning behind not giving childcare workers raises, and said they were under the impression that all employees’ pay received the adjustment.

“I want to apologize first of all to those who did not get a raise,” Trustee Sandra Bryant said. “I was under the impression when we visited the last budget that everyone got a raise… And I’m disappointed that we did not give everybody a raise.”

Howard said the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) recommended including the childcare workers in the districts’ compensation plan as part of their salary study, however, school board members declined that recommendation, as well as most others TASB made.

“Your statement is correct that we did not adopt all the recommendations that TASB made last year. We did not have the resources to do that,” Board President Robert Limon said. “But when we did vote for the budget, I had the understanding that we did something for our teachers and that everybody else was getting a 1.5 percent increase.”

As the board begins tackling the upcoming school year’s budget, Howard said it will be her priority to make everything clear for the board. Officials continue looking at employee pay and likely will make further adjustments as budget season deliberations continue. 

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