Educators, parents urge lawmakers not to cut funding

June 6, 2011 10:25:25 AM PDT
Houston education leaders are urging lawmakers not to pass a bill that would cut overall state education funding by $4 billion over the next two years.

The Houston Independent School District would lose hundreds of millions of dollars as part of the plan, and leaders say your children will be impacted by the cuts.

If the bill passes, HISD says these cuts in education funding would negatively affect every single student in the district.

Parents, administrators, and even the teachers' union, which is often at odds with the district, are warning every voter about the $4 billion in proposed cuts to public education that lawmakers in Austin are considering. If it passes, as expected, the bill would eliminate $78 million from HISD's budget in 2011, and $127 million in 2012. This translates to $275 less spending, per student, according to HISD.

Seventy-six percent of HISD's budget goes to employee salaries, and there is already just one employee for every eight students -- the second largest ratio in the state. Seventeen schools will be operating next year without a school nurse. Summer school, reading programs, physical education, and school computers are all earmarked for cuts if this bill becomes law.

Thirty-two percent of HISD's budget comes from the state, and the group is asking lawmakers once again to tap into the Rainy Day Fund instead of making the cuts. They say it isn't extras that kids will have to do without, rather it's the basic tools needed for learning.

"They are still cutting per-pupil funding below what is required for current school funding laws. This will have a direct and noticeable impact on the children in the classroom and everything we remove from a child's classroom sends the message to those children that that was not valuable," said Sue Deigaard, an HISD parent.

"We're not talking about programs that aren't necessary, we're talking about special ed; when you look at the cuts, what you really ought to do at some point is look at the riff list and see what we won't be having next year -- elementary PE teachers, art, music, librarians, nurses, enrichment programs, cuts in pre-K, severe cuts in career and technology with programs closing that kept children in school," said Gayle Fallon of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

One other concern is how much money the district could spend in litigation if it sues the state. That happened the last time there was a major school funding battle.

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