BROWNSVILLE (KVEO) — The Brownsville Independent School District (ISD) received over $185 million from federal emergency funding, but BISD employees say they want that money used for better pay raises.

“So, there is 1,977 employees that are going to get a bigger raise than the 2% but that still leaves approximately 4500 that are only going to receive a 2% increase,” said Ida Abeldano, an organizer with the Texas State Teachers Association with the Association of Brownsville Educators.

After one of the most challenging years, Abeldano says that teachers are leaving at a higher rate and though BISD is one of the biggest school districts, they are not offering a high enough retention stipend, either.

“As of right now what they said that they’re estimating is a total of $3,200 for retention stipends throughout the three years total and we also feel that that is not enough,” said Abeldano.

BISD received funding from both the American Rescue Plan and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, better known as E.S.S.E.R.

“Brownsville is one of the top districts because of the size—they’re going to be receiving a little over 185 million dollars in ESSER funding,” said Abeldano. “It’s a relief fund to help the districts to help with the educational gap they’ve experienced because of this pandemic.”

Abeldano says that now over one thousand BISD employees have signed a petition asking for a 5% salary raise across the board.

“The ESSER funding requirements requires that they have to show measurable growth,” said Abeldano.

But in order to show measurable growth students must be performing well, and teachers say that students are having a hard time transitioning back to in-person learning while some have stopped coming.

“A lot of the students—because we do have a lot of students that are coming over from Mexico they’ve just stopped coming—also we’re losing them to the charter schools, private schools,” said Abeldano.

According to numbers from BISD, the 2018 school year had an average attendance of 39,000 students, but up until April of the 2020-2021 school year, it dropped to 35,000 students.

BISD declined an interview and instead sent over this statement instead:

The Brownsville Independent School District is currently going through the budgetary process and appreciates all of the organizations, associations, and individual comments these past four months.

On June 1, the Board of Trustees approved a retention stipend of $1,200 to be paid to all full-time employees who were employed as of June 1, 2021, and approved to work in the 2021-2022 school year. This stipend is being made for the public educational purpose of working during some very difficult and trying times of a national pandemic and to further incentivize and retain employees at the district. These funds will come from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds. The Board of Trustees also approved a one-time modification to the 2020-2021 Summer Pay Scale increasing the hourly rates.

The district is proposing tomorrow at a Special Called Board Meeting for the Board of Trustees to approve pay raises for all employees at 2%, increase employee stipends for core subjects and extra-curricular activities, and an adjusted pay grade for all employees to be at least at 90% or higher of market value.

As we open our doors for the 2021-2022 school year, we are preparing to meet the needs of all students by accelerating our curriculum to ensure required skills are mastered at grade level. The district has adopted social and emotional platforms as well to ensure a smooth transition back to our schools. We recognize that students may have experienced learning gaps due to the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, we are preparing to serve them through multiple programs.

Brownsville Independent School District

Abeldano says that if there are any employees that feel underpaid, she encourages them to speak with human resources.

“It took a lot for them to be able to sign this even with how fearful they may be, but they agree that two percent is not enough,” said Abeldano.