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Texas School Districts Ready For Cuts From 2011 Legislative Session

Image courtesy Jonathan Pobre

The Texas Education Agency isn't the only organization bracing for cuts to education spending as lawmakers look to rein in a budget gap that could exceed $25 billion.  School districts are also girding for what they dread will be severe cuts to public education.

Round Rock ISD has enacted a hiring freeze, as we reported yesterday.  

In a release today, Round Rock ISD Superintendent Dr. Jesús. H. Chávez said the district is reducing spending by at least five percent - or about $17 million - in preparation for the cuts in state education.

KVUE reported last night how Hutto ISD is looking to shave $4 million of its budget.

Some of the proposed cuts and adjustments include: eliminating 80 staffing positions, temporarily closing a campus and moving grade levels to other schools for two years, restructuring the district's Dyslexia/Intervention Teach program, and restructuring or adjusting library, copy clerks, grounds and school resource officer positions.

The Austin Independent School District is holding two public meetings next week to talk about how it could save money by closing and consolidating schools.

The Statesman ran a front page story this morning by its education reporter Melissa Taboada that quoted education consultant Lynn Moak.

School finance experts say it's unclear how much the state will cut back on education or how it will divide up the shortfall among Texas' 1,200 public school districts. Consultant Lynn Moak said districts with a July 1 start to their fiscal years, including Round Rock, are under particular pressure to make decisions now. The state legislative session starts next week, but the budget issue might not be settled until the session ends in May. "Districts are trying to prepare themselves for what they believe is coming," Moak said. "They'll have to fine-tune that as they go along but many districts have sent out clear signals to the community and the staff that cuts are coming and that pay and position freezes are in place. "It's going to be a long legislative session and not one for the timid," he said.

One option on the table for reducing education spending is allowing for larger class size limits. State law currently caps kindergarten through fourth grade classes at 22 students per teacher.  Houston's ABC affiliate KTRK reported last night on a debate over class sizes raging in HISD, a district where 3 out of 4 students are classified as economically disadvantaged.

Curious to know more about public education in Texas? You can find some quick facts from the Texas Education Agency's Pocket Edition. That's the most recent edition, posted last month.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.