Pasadena ISD to slash 5 percent of budget

March 8, 2011 4:08:37 PM PST
As state lawmakers consider cutting billions from education funds, school districts across the state are looking for ways to deal with the anticipated shortfall.

We've shown you how bigger districts like Houston ISD are dealing with the money crunch, but what about smaller districts?

The reality is layoffs are likely at every school in the Pasadena Independent School District. That's because Pasadena is one of the smaller districts with just over 50,000 district-wide, and that means any layoffs will immediately affect the classroom.

Unlike the book she's reading, librarian Meredith Rives does not know the outcome of her own story.

"I think like everyone else, we're all worried about the future and making ends meet," she said.

Teachers and support staff like librarians are facing the first ever mass layoffs in the Pasadena Independent School District. Why? After four years of budget cuts district-wide, teachers are now vulnerable.

Pasadena ISD's $383 million budget will face a deficit of an estimated $21 million; about 5 percent of their budget will be gone because of cuts in state funding.

That means layoffs. About 180 teachers and 160 non-teaching employees face losing their jobs. And all Pasadena schools will lose 10 percent of their budget.

"I expect a whole lot less attrition this year than we normally see just because of economic circumstances and every other district going through the same thing," Pasadena ISD Superintendent Kirk Lewis said. "But hopefully we'll be able to bring back some of them at least."

By decreasing staff, Dr. Lewis expects an increase in class size, as well as cutting back on everything from supplies to field trips.

Frazier Elementary School's principal is already working to make up her school's budget deficit.

"There are also grant opportunities through these businesses and it is literally reaching out and begging them to sponsor our school, sponsor field trips, sponsor instructional materials. Our technology money for next year is totally gone," Principal Rhonda Parmer said.

Meanwhile, Rives points out what layoffs would mean to her and other teachers.

"I'm not ready to retire. I'm not near retirement. I have another at least three years. If I can't get my years in, then that's going to affect my retirement big time," Rives said.

Lewis says layoffs likely will happen sometime this week, though the specific positions have yet to be identified. However, support staff as well as teachers will keep their jobs through the end of the year. The layoffs will take effect at the beginning of the next school year.