PHOENIX - In March, Gilbert Public Schools laid off more than 150 teachers and staff just as schools began welcoming students and school employees back to campus.
On Friday, FOX 10 learned that those who got to keep their jobs are getting a pay raise.
Officials with Gilbert Public Schools explained that a reduction in student enrollment led to the layoffs. The district says it's giving all employees permanent 2% pay raises.
Many teachers and parents are now questioning the district’s budget decisions and the timing of it all.
Angela Philpot was a teacher in Gilbert who recently was laid off and said, "If you have money to give raises, why don’t you have money to retain staff?"
She doesn’t agree with the district’s budget-balancing decisions.
"All you can do is look at the math. Here’s the money you save by riding of 152 people. It’s almost equal to the raises that they gave permanently to existing staff. So I think the math speaks for itself," Philpot said.
District officials say different equations were used in the decisions and released a statement, saying in full:
"As a school district we greatly value all of our employees. Unfortunately due to a significant decline in enrollment that occurred during the pandemic, we are going into the next school year with fewer teaching positions available. This has resulted in a reduction in force. The decision to implement a reduction in force was not taken lightly.
It is important for us to ensure the sustainability of our schools and our academic programming for our students, and student-based staffing reflects this. The timing of the reduction in force, 2 months prior to the end of this school year, is intended to provide those affected as much time as possible to secure another position for the next school year.
The decision to raise salaries for all Gilbert Public Schools employees is based upon a commitment within our district to deliver competitive salaries for all employees. This initiative has been ongoing for a number of years and is reflected in our Strategic Plan. The timing behind this was based on the fact that it is part of our budget plan for next year, which takes place at this time of year."
During a board meeting on Tuesday, officials say they expect to receive up to $20 million in additional federal funding in the future.
"I think it’s hurtful to employees that you say that you care about. Two weeks earlier at a board meeting, you’re saying we’re at this financial cliff that we can’t invest in these 152 positions, then two weeks later we have enough funds to give raises," Philpot says.
The pay raise for Gilbert Public Schools employees will take effect at the start of the 2022 fiscal year.