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Saturday, January 1, 2011

A lack of funding

Texas and many states are facing the same funding issues as Florida. -cpg

From my San Antonio's home page.

Public school finance is in serious trouble and was heading off the rails even before the recession started battering the state's budget. Observers are pessimistic about whether lawmakers will tackle the structural problems next year in a session that faces a budget shortfall of more than $20 billion.

Still, a protracted lawsuit and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees shouldn't be required to get the issue addressed. The economic future of the state of Texas is at stake; how much more serious can it get?

And Sylvester Vasquez, a member of the Southwest Independent School District board and president of the Texas Association of School Boards, warns it would be devastating for school districts if they are forced to make additional budget reductions that are being contemplated as part of the state's belt-tightening efforts.

School districts already are expecting to face $3.2 billion in recurring expenses the state sent their way last session, when lawmakers earmarked some of the federal stimulus dollars for salary increases for school personnel.

School district and school board officials are now concerned the state might not give them needed additional funding for student population growth, which would carry a $2.5 billion price tag for the new biennium.

Already, rapidly growing school districts such as Northside, one of the largest school districts in the state, are trying to calculate what a state funding cut would mean. It is not pretty.

Northside ISD Superintendent John Folks said a 5 percent cut would affect the jobs of 275 teachers and 45 administrators. There is not much else to cut, he said, when 86 to 87 percent of a school district budget is tied to personnel.

The cuts would impact not only large districts. In the Southwest ISD, which has only 12,000 students, a 5-percent cut would affect 42 teachers and 20 maintenance workers and custodians, Vasquez said.

The downsizing of the teaching staff will probably result in increased class sizes and could affect summer school.

Public school educators should not be forced to take the state to court to get relief. We have been there and done that. The solutions that were served up are not working and need to be reworked.

Ignoring the public education problems for yet another legislative session is a disservice to the schoolchildren in the state. And making the situation worse by cutting funding for public education would be outrageously short-sighted. Students are the future of this state, and shortchanging them on their educational opportunities is shortchanging the state economy.

State lawmakers need to make public school education a priority in the next session.

Filing bills aimed at micromanaging teacher education and what goes on in the classroom is inconsequential when the big issues are ignored.

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