'It's going to get tough': Houston-area districts forced to make cuts if state doesn't up funding

Lileana Pearson Image
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Districts facing major budget cuts if state doesn't step up funding
Spring Branch ISD said it needs a $1,000 per-student increase to keep operations normal, however, the state is only offering an increase of just $50 per student.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Since 2021, Fort Bend ISD has been forced to reduce its budget by about $40 million to keep up with inflation and the growing education costs.

"Our funding per student compared to most states in the country. I mean, we're in the 40s," Fort Bend Deputy Superintendent Steve Bassett said.

Bassett said if they want to give teachers a 2% raise next year, they need to find a way to cut an additional $23 million from their budget. This is on top of already deciding to close Blueridge Elementary.

"2% raises is not going to be enough to keep our teachers. They are tired. They are burned out. Not to mention being able to recruit and retain nurses or police officers or bus drivers," Bassett said.

Bassett said the state is sitting on a $33 billion budget surplus, so he's hoping the state will increase the per-student allotment. But since 2019, for the last four years, the state has given districts $6,160 per student.

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During the 2021 legislative session, that didn't change, but there wasn't much pushback because federal funding during the COVID pandemic filled in the gaps.

"The state is not going to continue to be the state it is if public education suffers," Bassett said.

Spring Branch ISD is also raising the alarm. On Thursday, school leaders told families if the state doesn't step up its funding, they'll have to make major cuts to education, safety, and more.

On Friday, the Board of Trustees met to discuss their budget situation in Spring Branch and the response from their lawmakers when they asked for more money.

In a joint statement from Senators Joan Huffman and Paul Bettencourt on Thursday, they said, "It is extremely concerning that school district leadership would threaten students and families with cuts in services and increased taxes while state aid to the district is increasing."

Spring Branch ISD said it needs a $1,000 per-student increase to keep operations normal. The state is offering an increase of just $50 per student.

SEE ALSO: Texas Senate budget proposes billions for teacher raises, lower property taxes, water projects

"One of the challenges we have thrown out to our legislators that are questioning our numbers is just show us where we are wrong," a Spring Branch ISD board member said.

Bassett said districts across the state face the same hard decision of where to cut while putting the best foot forward for their students.

"It's going to get tough," Bassett said.

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