Monday, January 16, 2012

Region 16 superintendents illustrate pain of budget cuts by sharing districts’ stories

Robert McLain, Mike Lee and Karl Vaughn were tired of hearing the story of how state budget cuts are affecting school districts spun and skewed by a handful of lawmakers and critics to public education. To hear some of them tell it, schools hadn’t suffered one bit when the Texas Legislature cut $5.3 billion of education funding from schools that are already some of the lowest-funded in the country.

So the three Region 16 superintendents decided to do something about it by telling the story district-by-district, and putting statistics behind the anecdotes of larger classes, canceled field trips and drastically reduced staff.

The three district leaders – McLain from Channing, Lee from Booker, and Vaughn from White Deer – came up with a survey to highlight the impact of budget cuts to area school districts and outline how those cuts are affecting classrooms.

Of 63 districts in Region 16, 53 responded. Highlights of the survey include:
  •  85 percent of district budgets were cut due to a reduction in state funding.
  • 91 percent of districts eliminated positions or reduced personnel and/or programs because of a reduction in funding this year or in anticipation of reductions coming next year.
  • 64 percent reduced instructional personnel with 45 percent anticipating more reductions in 2012-13.
  • 62 percent cut back on field trips.
  • 58 percent reduced funding for technology.
  • 26 percent of districts adopted a deficit budget for 2011-12.
  • 49 percent committed to using a portion of their fund balance to finance expenses. 

The superintendents said they want Texans to know that school districts across the state are suffering.

“It’s wide and varied,” Vaughn told the Amarillo Globe-News.

McLain said of the survey: “The people in Channing are going to care about how Channing is doing, but we wanted it to reflect how all the districts in the panhandle got hit with this funding situation.”

The three superintendents said they hope district leaders across the state follow their lead and conduct surveys in their region, then share the results with the community and local media.

“It really helps you put into perspective how decisions made at the state level are impacting districts,” Price said.

TASA encourages districts to be frank and specific with your community, lawmakers and local media about the effect budget cuts are having in your classrooms. Texans need to understand that, for the sake of our state’s future, we need to invest more in our children, not shortchange them.

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