Having convinced the San Antonio City Council to adopt a $13/hour minimum wage for its public employees—which remains bad fiscal policy—union representatives are now turning their eyes to another Alamo City entity: the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD).

According to the San Antonio Express News, union officials are pressing SAISD board members to pass a “living wage” for roughly 1,000 school district employees. From the article:

The lowest-paid workers in school districts across San Antonio are launching living wage campaigns, with the help of outside organizations, including COPS/Metro and the Southwest Workers’ Union.

At a rally before SAISD’s board meeting, the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers & Support Personnel and community organizers asked the board to publicly commit to the campaign and research the cost of raising the wage floor to $13 per hour next fiscal year and $15 per hour within three years.

Proposals to raise the minimum wage are bad economics, but even worse fiscal policy—especially considering that the district is deeply in debt and student enrollment is shrinking.

SAISD relies heavily on the taxpayers’ credit card, with its total local debt amounting to almost $1.1 billion or roughly $20,250 owed per student. This enormous taxpayer obligation should at least be resolved in some meaningful way before considering any significant non-merit pay increases. An especially important point given that the current tax-and-spend approach is creating an affordability problem that’s leading to an exodus of students. 

Source: Texas Bond Review Board

SAISD’s exploding debt, and the high property tax burden that comes along with it, is happening at a time when the district’s student enrollment is shrinking. According to the Texas Comptroller, SAISD’s student enrollment declined by 4.9 percent from the 2004-05 to 2013-14 school years while statewide enrollment shot up by almost 15 percent.

Source: Texas Comptroller’s Debt-at-a-Glance

Moving forward with a living wage proposal will only end up worsening the district’s fiscal position and possibly force more students to leave the district. SAISD would be better off scrutinizing its budget for efficiencies that can be redirected to merit-based raises for deserving employees thereby helping employees, taxpayers, and students.