Teachers file suit to secure paychecks, come what may

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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The Wilmer-Hutchins school district may not have the money to pay its bills this summer, but teachers want to ensure their paychecks are secure.

A teachers group filed suit Monday against the district and a bank to ensure that teachers will be first in line if the district’s financial assets are liquidated.

“We have no intention of letting anyone deny teachers one-third of their annual salary for this school year and making them and their families suffer as a result,” said Joe Tave, president of the Wilmer-Hutchins Education Association.

Wilmer-Hutchins is, once again, teetering on the edge of financial crisis. Twice this school year it has been unable to pay its employees on time. The district will need more than $2 million to meet its payroll obligations between now and the end of the summer, and state funds to the district are nearly dried up.

In addition, the district doesn’t have money to repay a $2.8 million loan to Wells Fargo, and the bank has filed suit to recover the funds.

The suit seeks a judgment declaring that the teachers’ right to their salaries supersedes Wells Fargo’s right to its loan – meaning that the bank could not recover any funds until teachers are all paid. Teachers work on a 10-month contract but are paid their salary over 12 months.

The suit was filed by the Texas State Teachers Association, one of the four main state teacher groups. Spokesman Richard Kouri said that the suit technically only seeks to ensure paychecks for TSTA members in the district but that as a practical matter, any judgment in its favor would apply to other district employees.

Wilmer-Hutchins was recently taken over by a board of state managers, which is considering shutting down the district entirely. Following corruption allegations in the district, residents recently voted to reduce the district’s budget by 40 percent.