Inside classrooms across Katy ISD, the district is working through its largest teacher shortage ever.
“Right now, we’re running probably about 150-200 teacher vacancies still to this day,” Superintendent Ken Gregorski said.
At Taylor High School, they started the year missing more than 10 teachers, vacancies the school has never seen before.
“I was shocked and a little nervous,” school principal Melinda Stone said.
It may not sound like a big number, but to the hundreds of students now missing a teacher, Stone says, “It absolutely trickles down to the students.”
The district has compensated for the vacancies with larger class sizes and using long-term substitute teachers. At least four of the vacancies at Taylor High School are being filled by substitutes who are working towards their certification.
But in the face of an unprecedented labor shortage in education, Katy ISD says they are left competing for teachers across the state.
“We’re in a national teacher shortage. We’re in a Texas teacher shortage. So we’re all out there, every school district is competing for the same teachers. So by doing an additional 4% raise for those teachers, I think that makes us very competitive to attract more teachers and to retain our current teachers,” Gregorski said.
To raise those funds, they’re asking voters to consider a TRE, Tax Rate Election, to keep the tax rate the same.
If the TRE passes, Katy ISD would generate $23 million, and they say every single penny would be used on a 4% employee raise and to hire 10 additional police officers.
But State Sen. Paul Bettencourt calls the TRE a property tax stunt that both Katy and Fort Bend school districts are seeking.
“To me going, back to last year’s tax rate is just a stunt so that taxpayers think, ‘Oh, I’ve got last year’s tax rate I’ll be fine,’ but it’s not true, because values are going through the roof,” Bettencourt said.
If the TRE passes, the tax rate remains the same but it would cost the average property owner about $216 because property values have increased across Katy ISD.
If the TRE fails, the tax rate is automatically reduced and the average Katy ISD homeowner would save about $152.
At Taylor High School, Principal Stone hopes a potential pay raise will help fill her teacher shortage.
“It’s really scary to think of the alternative quite honestly,” Stone said. “Students that are not prepared for our world.”
For more information about Katy ISD’s Tax Rate Election visit Katy ISD’s website.