Lake Travis ISD budget amendments reflect staff increases to meet 29% growth in special education population

The board of trustees discussed population increased and open staff positions within the special education department. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
The board of trustees discussed population increased and open staff positions within the special education department. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)

The board of trustees discussed population increased and open staff positions within the special education department. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)

The population of special education students within Lake Travis ISD has grown at a faster rate than the district anticipated. LTISD budgeted instructional allocations based on a projected 12% growth in enrollment; however, based on current enrollment data the district will require additional staff.



LTISD has seen a 29% increase, or 81 new students, from the 2018-19 school year, compared to a 3.6% increase in overall district enrollment. As a result, the board of trustees approved an additional seven full-time equivalent positions during the Nov. 20 board meeting to accommodate the needs of the department.



The majority of the 81 students are the result of new families moving into the district with already identified special education children, according to Laura Abott, LTISD's director of special services.



Since May the district has hired 21 aides and 15 special education teachers, said Evalene Murphy, the assistant superintendent for human resource services.



The additional full-time-equivalent positions will result in a total budget amendment of $430,000 for additional staff and $109,000 for contracting services, according to Johnny Hill, the assistant superintendent for business, financial and auxiliary services.



Later in the meeting, the board also approved a request to increase the pay of special eduction substitutes presented by Murphy. Certified and uncertified special education subs in LTISD will see a $10-per-day increase. Murphy said this is due to competitive rates within neighboring districts.



The district also discussed the department’s existing vacancies for the current school year. Currently, LTISD has three open special education teacher positions and nine aide vacancies. Murphy said filling those vacancies has been difficult, calling the subject a current nationwide issue.



Two parents and one special education aide approached the board during the Nov. 20 meeting to share their concerns regarding the department.



Mary Kuse, a Bee Cave Elementary School aide with the district, approached the board for the third time during public comments asking for a raise for special education aides.



“I think we’re having a problem with the recruitment, the retention and the respect of the special ed aides,” Kuse said, adding the compensation rates could not be considered competitive when compared to the cost of living in the area and the availability of other jobs. "I know the administrations think that the rate of pay for teachers and support staff is competitive with other districts, but it’s not that competitive when compared to the cost of living in the area and other available jobs."

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.