Atlanta Public Schools mulls 2% pay raises starting in April

Atlanta Public Schools Board Chair Jason Esteves talks at a news conference at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School in Atlanta, while Superintendent Lisa Herring looks on, Jan. 25, 2021.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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Atlanta Public Schools Board Chair Jason Esteves talks at a news conference at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School in Atlanta, while Superintendent Lisa Herring looks on, Jan. 25, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The Atlanta Board of Education is poised to give 2% raises to about 6,200 employees in April.

The board is expected to vote April 12 on a compensation plan that, if approved, would hasten proposed raises so that teachers and all full-time staffers get extra pay this spring instead of waiting several more months.

”I think it hopefully shows our teachers and our staff that we want to make sure that they are appropriately compensated for all of the hard work that they’ve been doing in a very challenging year,” said board Chairman Jason Esteves, during a recent budget meeting.

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Most APS employees have not received raises this school year, though the district paid $1,000 stipends in December and raised the minimum wage for its lowest paid workers.

A district spokesman said APS can afford boosting pay now in part because local property tax collections are “currently outpacing our conservative revenue projections.”

In addition to 2% raises, the board will consider providing one-time payments that officials said would go “above and beyond” Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to give certain school-based employees a $1,000 “retention bonus.”

Under Atlanta Public Schools’ expanded bonus plan, all of the district’s full-time employees would receive a $1,000 stipend in their April 30 paychecks. Part-time workers and permanent substitute teachers would receive $500.

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The cost of the end-of-year 2% raises and bonuses would be about $9.6 million. A portion of that price tag would be covered through the state’s plan to provide “retention bonuses” to certain school employees.

“We have a lot of positions in schools that aren’t what I would call standard positions. We have social and emotional learning coaches, restorative practices positions, a lot of interventionists that weren’t on [the state’s] list of school-based employees,” said Skye Duckett, APS chief human resources officer, at a recent meeting to review the proposal. “And then we also have district office staff, we have other operations staff that weren’t on their list.”

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In February, Duckett first brought forward a $14 million teacher compensation proposal for next school year. That proposal included 2% raises and other increases depending on years of service and other factors.

The updated pay plan would provide the 2% raises starting April 16, and showing up in May paychecks, instead of waiting for the new year to begin. For the average teacher, a 2% raise is equivalent to about $1,300 a year, according to district documents.

In a letter to employees, Superintendent Lisa Herring called the plan to speed up raises “a bold step to ensure that base pay increases are guaranteed for the remainder of this school year and continue into next school year.”

Additional pay raises for the budget year that begins July 1 would be approved by the board separately in June.