Leander ISD exceeds 22:1 class-size ratio in 18 schools

Board approves waivers to be submitted to TEA

By APRIL S. KELLEY, Hill Country News

Eighteen K-4 schools in the Leander Independent School District exceed the Texas cap class-size ratio of 22 students for every teacher in elementary schools. 

Elementary schools in LISD that exceed the 22:1 ratio in some sections include all five in the Four Points area: Grandview Hills, Laura Welch Bush, River Place, River Ridge and Steiner Ranch. Other LISD elementary schools that exceed are: Whitestone, Faubion, Block House Creek, Mason, Giddens, Cox, Deer Creek, Rutledge, Winkley, Parkside, Ronald Reagan, Christine Camacho and Monta Jane Akin. 

At a meeting last week, LISD board members approved waivers to be submitted to the Texas Education Agency. 

LISD Chief Human Resources Officer Karie Lynn McSpadden said there are currently 72 sections that exceed the 22:1 ratio at this time. 

“We are monitoring that daily with our enrollment, working with our principals and area superintendents to make appropriate decisions,” McSpadden said. “We are asking for action on our compliance plan that we will submit to TEA.”

LISD board member Pamela Waggoner asked why the district does not just make changes now if a teacher has more than 22 students in their classroom. 

“It’s harder to separate those students three months from now as opposed to now when we know this is coming,” Waggoner said.

McSpadden said transitions in enrollment can change so the adjustment is inconsistent. 

“There’s no guarantee until new students show up and those that are already attending, remain in the schools,” McSpadden said. 

Waggoner said the district is already over the 22-student limit in many classrooms. For example, Parkside Elementary has seven sections in third grade that exceed the Texas cap. 

“I just wonder, if we have room to bring in another teacher, wouldn’t it bring in a better educational quality for those kids?” Waggoner said. 

McSpadden said after school starts, the district waits until every section in a particular grade level exceeds the Texas cap before they bring in another teacher. 

“To bring K-4 down to 22:1 in all grade levels, it would cost $960,000, because it would take 16 teachers,” McSpadden said. 

LISD became a District of Innovation in 2018. Under House Bill 1842, passed in 2015, Texas amended its state education laws to allow school districts to become districts of innovation, which would allow traditional public school districts with levels of flexibility and autonomy similar to those allowed in open-enrollment charter schools. 

Districts of innovation have the opportunity to opt out of certain state laws and regulations related to class sizes, teacher certification, start and end dates, student discipline, length of school days and open bidding of district contracts. 

As a district of innovation, LISD can exempt themselves from Texas’ class-size caps.