Budget cuts threaten Katy bilingual program

March 28, 2011 8:15:12 PM PDT
Parents are fighting to save a program their students depend on. The program may get axed because of budget problems, but those parents are hoping to stop that.

The focus for parents at the Katy ISD school board meeting is the future of the Two-Way Immersion Program, which teaches kids from kindergarten up in Spanish and English.

No decisions were made Monday night by the school board because they are still waiting for word from Austin on how big their budget deficit will be, which could be anywhere from $19 to $60 million.

Dozens of Katy ISD parents stood up at the school board meeting Monday night wearing red, hoping to save the Two-Way Immersion Program at Fielder Elementary School. The Spanish/English curriculum, they say, keeps them in Katy.

"I even had a job opportunity; I could have moved elsewhere, but the other state didn't have anything like this so we wanted to have the best opportunity for him," Katy parent David Terzian said.

The school board, facing what it estimates to be a $50 million deficit once the state legislature passes the budget, says nothing is slated to be cut -- yet.

"We have to find a way to get the revenue and that's a big challenge," Katy ISD Superintendent Alton Frailey said.

But parents aren't so sure because enrollment for the Two-Way Immersion Program is on hold for now.

"We're of course watching the website, getting all prepared to come to the meeting and they take it down and they say due to budgetary reasons, we are not going to be holding these meetings at this time," Katy parent Melanie Hayes said.

The program would continue for current students, but enrollment would not open for next year's kindergarteners, effectively discontinuing the program.

A Katy ISD spokesman says if tens of millions of dollars are cut from the nearly $450 million budget, only one thing will be safe.

"We're a growing district so school closings -- that's one thing that's off the table because we are a growing district; we continue to add students," Katy ISD Spokesman Steve Stanford said.

And as parents stepped up to the microphone to defend the Two-Way Immersion Program, they hoped this early show of support, in what will likely be painful budget cuts, will keep the Two-Way Immersion Program open for years to come.

"Next year I hopefully will have a second child going to the Two-Way Immersion Program," Terzian said.

A spokesman with Katy ISD says they have until September 1 to get a budget into place, which gives them a little more time than many other local school districts. But he predicts the board will have some tough choices ahead.