HISD still needs to fill 800 teacher vacancies before school starts in less than three weeks

With less than three weeks until students at Houston ISD return to the classroom, the district is still reporting more than 800 teacher vacancies. It’s part of a national shortage that schools are facing.

"I’m feeling a little nervous seeing the amount of teacher vacancies that we have. I take this personally, right. Because of my own child, I want to make sure that they have a classroom teacher," said Judith Cruz, HISD's board trustee president. 

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Cruz was a teacher for 10 years. She now has three kids in the district and worries about the long-term impact.

"Currently we’re looking at about 1/3 of our students in 3rd grade are reading on grade level, that’s not even half. So, every day and every month that they don’t have a teacher in their classroom, that just puts them further and further behind," Cruz said. 

Since last year, HISD says the district implemented an 11% average raise for returning teachers, hosted multiple job fairs this summer, and are offering retention bonuses as well.  

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Positions that don’t get filled by the start of school will utilize a long-term substitute, a solution that Jackie Anderson, President of the Houston Federation of Teachers, says is a band-aid repair.  

"If you have a sub on Monday, a sub on Tuesday, a different sub on Wednesday, really? Teaching is relationships as well. So, you can’t have just a person. That’s just a person in a room. Teaching is more than that. Schools and school districts across this nation need to start looking at the culture. They need to start looking at compensation and working conditions," Anderson said.

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Anderson added that the 11% raises were a good start in the right direction for the upcoming school year, but said additional changes are necessary in the long-term.

"A threshold would be to match the inflation in an area. If you’re not getting paid or your pay doesn’t match the inflation, you’re behind the 8-ball," Anderson said. 

The starting teacher salary at HISD for the upcoming school year is around $61,500, making it one of the most competitive starting teacher salaries in the nation, according to the district.