Waco Independent School District teachers weighed in Tuesday with suggestions for the board of trustees on how to spend the potential $8.5 million in new revenue that could flow into the district if a proposed tax rate increase is approved by voters in November.
In a meeting hosted by the district, about 40 teachers and administrators compiled a list of what they think would be the best use of the district’s dollars to effectively improve the overall quality of the district.
The majority of requests revolved around the need for additional staffing on campuses to provide teacher support and behavior intervention.
The final list included items such as middle school reading and credit recovery teachers, elementary school teacher aides and dual- credit classes for all high school students in the district.
Teachers repeatedly asked for more behavior aides, a new position adopted by the district last year, saying an extra adult being available to remove a difficult child provides more stability in the classroom.
“That saved so much instructional time, it was a godsend,” one teacher said.
Reducing the teacher-to-student ratio in the lower grades also was discussed by adding teacher aides in most kindergarten through second-grade classes to ensure students read at or above grade level by third grade.
Others pushed for music and art teachers, saying the electives give students who struggle with academics and athletics an opportunity to succeed and additional planning time for core-subject teachers.
Another group lobbied for additional technology. Teachers explained that many students went without the necessary technology for research in class, while some computers and televisions went unused because access to the Internet was so poor at some campuses.
Possible tax hike
Board President Pat Atkins said the list will be condensed with others from similar meetings with the principals and members of the community. The final list will be used to design the plan on how to use the added revenue if the tax rate hike is approved by voters, he said.
The board approved Thursday a proposed 9 cent per $100 property valuation net tax rate increase, from $1.35324 to $1.443236, which must be approved by voters in the November election. Trustees still can adopt a lower tax rate, but they cannot approve an amount higher than the proposed rate.
The state caps the M&O tax rate at $1.04 per $100 property, but allows voters to approve anything up to $1.17 per $100 property valuation.
Trustee Cary DuPuy said he was surprised by the variety of needs from the different campuses.
None of the suggestions was frivolous or unfounded, DuPuy said, but he wants to see behavior and literacy improved before money is spent on electives or iPads.
“We can’t solve every problem we’re facing,” he said.
Part of bettering literacy includes designing a program to help students catch up during transition years, Waco ISD Superintendent Bonny Cain said.
Adding staff and student spots in a recovery program at Brazos High School Credit Recovery for students in middle school might reduce behavior problems on traditional campuses, and help students catch up enough to enter high school without any learning gaps, Cain said.
Cain plans to have meetings with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Prosper Waco and other fraternal and business organizations to receive input on what issues they would be willing to support to receive a tax rate increase.
“I’m really optimistic that this will be a game-changer,” Cain said.