The Pearland ISD school board addressed the arduous task of balancing the district’s growth with anticipated revenues last Tuesday, agreeing to add 33 positions next fall just to keep student-teacher ratios at projected levels — plus another 8 positions to help reduce those ratios and get ahead in recruiting.
“We’d like to get going on hiring,” Superintendent John Kelly told the board. “If we wait, the prospects aren’t quite as good.”
Thirty-three of the new teacher positions added were the minimum needed to meet or maintain targeted academic ratios of 1:23 for high schools, 1:25.5 in the junior high level, 1:26 in middle school and 1:23 in elementary schools – all while accommodating an estimated 509 new students. Teacher positions were also needed in resource/inclusion and life skills areas, where target ratios differ.
The budget impact for 33 positions needed to maintain the ratio due to growth was about $1.98 million. After much discussion, the board opted to go ahead with approving an additional 8 positions at the elementary level, a total budget impact of $2.44 million.
Those extra 8 teachers will reduce the elementary target student-teacher ratio to 1:22 instead of 1:23, to reduce the number of waiver requests that must be approved, sometimes last-minute, by the board. Kindergarten and pre-K enrollment is particularly hard to predict, Kelly said, since there is no previous grade with which to compare it. Through pre-registration is offered, staff said, it is not an accurate predictor of enrollment since many parents choose to register children as late as the first day of school.
With neighboring districts planning and already approving teacher pay raises for next year, PISD Trustees were leery of approving the expense based solely on reducing ratios.
“It’s going to be hard for me to look some of these folks in the eye and tell them, ‘Your insurance is going up and we’re not going to give you any extra money, but we’re going to cut one or two kids out of your class,” Trustee Virgil Gant said.
Others pointed out that the additional positions would soon be needed anyway, and it is better to go hunting near the beginning rather than late in the season.
Trustee Andrew Solomon wasn’t sold.
“Let’s not just talk about raises,” he said, indicating a preliminary budget report presented at the meeting. “Page 73 has a whole bunch of non-payroll costs – programs we want to have in the district – and the truth of the matter is, you say $500,00 isn’t going to make that much of a difference – but this is only $1.1 million (of non-payroll goal items).”
Ultimately, Solomon and Trustee Pam Boegler voted against the motion, which passed 5-2.
Pearland ISD Trustee meeting schedules and agendas are posted online at www.pearlandisd.org.