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Texas budget cuts could leave students at a loss

Graphic by Thoa Mlo

Your favorite teacher, gone. Classes held with a maximum of 25 students, gone. Brand new iMac desktops, gone. This isn’t a threat right now, but from the way things are going in Austin all of these things could become a reality in our schools if the legislation goes forward with their $5 billion in budget cuts from education this session.

“Any change in the level of funding will affect our ability to adequately meet the needs of our students.” Duncanville ISD Chief Financial Operator Jennifer Wilson said. “Duncanville ISD is in the bottom third regarding funding per students.”

Every year the state approves a new budget for the next school year. Districts have been anticipating a decrease in state funding of about $5 billion, but the preliminary budget shows a shortfall of almost $10 billion.

“I think it’s going to make teaching less attractive. I realize everyone has to make sacrifices, but teaching has never been a ‘glamorous’ profession. That’s fine,” teacher David Womack said. “I didn’t get into teaching because I wanted to be treated like a rock star. I became a teacher because I felt that’s what I was supposed to do. I don’t think many young people will want to go into teaching when they hear about funding cuts, layoffs etc., especially when the economy hasn’t fully recovered.”

Although this threat is imminent, the district has taken steps to prepare for financial crisis.

“We prepared for this day by building our general fund balance by $18 million in the last four years.” Superintendent Dr. Alfred Ray said. “We also sought, and continue to seek, cost savings, rebates, and grants to reduce costs.”

Although this is an immediate solution for Duncanville ISD, it is just a quick fix and will not last long.

“These will helps us deal with the upcoming cuts in the short term,” Dr. Ray said, ” but long term, only a successful election can help us maintain current levels of service beyond the year 2014.”

Although the cut in state funding will affect everyone in the school, the largest impact will be for the staff. Wilson said that 83% of the district’s budget is spent on staff salaries and 9% is spent on contracted services.

“Any cut in funding will affect our ability to maintain current staffing allocations,” Wilson said. “The current funding crisis affects our community with regards to our ability to recruit and retain quality staff members who provide students with engaging learning experiences.”

If the district loses funding and can’t replace teachers or hire new educators students may be placed in classes with numbers up to 30 or more. This is something that students such as senior Brooke Ballengee are not looking forward to.

“It really worries me, I’ve never noticed there being too many kids in a class generally, but certain classes where there’s not enough teachers for the subject, like a lot of the core classes, it’s harder to pay attention with more students,” Ballengee said, “And thinking that some of those classes are only going to get bigger is not a comforting thought. A lot of classes fill up at the beginning of the year because there’s not enough room for everyone who wants to take it. If the class fills up and you can’t take the class, it’s just too bad. It’s going to make getting into classes a lot more difficult if there aren’t enough teachers .”

Though the funding cuts are a present issue, there are still actions citizens can take to try and solve this problem. Duncanville ATPE Representative Gail Loski encourages citizens to get involved if they want to see a change.

“Parents, teachers and concerned citizens need to personally let their congress members know where they stand on the issue,” Loski said. “There was a poll saying that 70% of people don’t want to see Education cut and 60% do not want to see the class size limit disappear, but we need more than a poll to let our legislature know we are against cutting Education funding and class size limits.”

Hear how our district feels about Texas Budget Cuts

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