I t seems like the news gets worse a nd worse a round the state of Texas for Public Schools. You can’t pick up a newspaper or watch a news station without reading or hearing about the large numbers of educators and support personnel that districts are planning to lay off. Depending on the district it can be anywhere from 30 to over 1000 planned layoffs.
Those numbers are pret t y astounding. If we did not have the financial security in Rockdale ISD to fund part of next year’s budget from our Fund Balance we would anticipate the layoff of 70 professional positions over the next two years to meet the “worst case scenario” projections of lost funds ($1.7 million per year). That number of personnel is more than an entire campus of educators.
The shortfall is real, but how large is the question. The responsibility of resolving the short- fall can be a balanced approach shouldered by both the legislature and school districts.
Rockdale ISD spent the last week reviewing the state of education in Texas and in our district and projecting possible financial cuts with our employees. We have committed to cutting 10 perent of all budgets which is about $300,000.
Secondly, we are going to turn to District Goal number 3: “RISD will cultivate a high quality, professional and caring staff that is adaptable to the change facing students and educators in the 21st Century.” Some of the change facing educators for the 21st century includes using technological tools that are free resources. Severa l of t he technolog y resources that do not cost money and will save on annual licensing costs are: implementing a free e-mail system; using additional Web 2.0 products for engaging students in their lessons; utilizing Windows products from the Cloud; and delivering our professional development through Project SHARE, a free portal for educators in Texas. These cuts will not eliminate the budget shortfall completely.
We plan to use attrition along with a hiring freeze which means all Rockdale ISD employees will absorb more responsibility as people leave the district ($200,000- $500,000). Of course, we will review each position and hire according to need when necessary.
Our goal is to protect classroom instruction as much as possible and there will be other solutions to investigate, but if the worst case scenario becomes a reality, education in Rockdale ISD and across the state will have a very different look.
To provide a balanced approach between the state and school districts the legislature can help by doing the following:
• Make education a top priority.
• Use the $9.3 Billion Texas “Rainy Day” Fund to support schools.
• Encourage the governor to sign for $830 Million in federal aid for teachers.
• Fix school funding laws to be fair to all districts and to our growing student population across the state.
If you are interested in the public education financial dilemma check out the “Make Education a Priority” website and the “Save Texas Schools” website. There is good information in both.