Few issues come with state budget cuts

Problems arise for schools as budget cuts are being made throughout the state.

“The state is cutting $4 billion from the Foundation School Program and over $1 billion in grant funding,” said Sarah Winkler, vice president of the Alief ISD board of trustees.

Many districts are being forced to cut  teachers, staff, and courses altogether. Alief, however, is not suffering as badly compared to other districts. Although the budget cuts are not affecting the district drastically, schools do have less money to use for education this year.

“Alief will receive $22.67 million  less than we should have received under the current system,” Winkler said. “We are also losing $4.5 million in grants and $1.2 million  over a three-year period beginning last year.”

Alief is  losing teachers as well, but not from the budget cuts.

“We did reduce the budget by $7.5 million,” Winkler said. “We cut 161 positions by attrition (retirements and resignations).  No employees involuntarily lost their jobs.”

This year, Kerr has 39 teachers as opposed to 41 last year, according to Assistant Principal Kim Mathis. Gone are  Dr. Misty Chen-Goodspeed, a science teacher, and Evelyn Flores, a math teacher.  The school has also lost two other staff members: Chris Halket, the testing center clerk, and Fabra Johnson, a hall monitor. The campus has a tech specialist, Cindy Payne, only part-time, and special education instructor Jan Kolk is also dividing her time with another campus.

On top of all the changes made to staff, Kerr now only provides one foreign language class.

“French won’t be offered as a foreign language any more,” Mathis said. “We’re not sure if it will be offered online or not…”

This year French will not be offered as a foreign language to anyone who hasn’t taken French I in the past.

In response to budget cuts, expenses for electricity are now being trimmed as well. Temperatures in the school are controlled from the main district office, and lights must be turned off when no one is in the room and in certain areas after school; computers must also be logged off and shut down on Friday for the weekend, according to Mathis. 

Tutorials and interventions may also be affected by the budget cuts for campuses in Alief. These are the  main resources for students who are not doing well in their studies and the method used to take action when students are failing.

“The loss in grant funding could be problematic – we really don’t know yet,” Winkler said. “Currently, Student Success Initiative grant funding pays for tutorials and interventions.  Since those funds have been cut, it is possible that campuses may not be able to provide tutorials at the same level as they have in the past.”

Although Alief is experiencing many cuts for the district, “we are also receiving $7.7 Million in federal Edujobs funding that helps to cushion the loss of funding this first year of the biennium,” according to Winkler. But it still isn’t as great as before. The state isn’t just giving making cuts, “we also are experiencing federal funding cuts.”

But either way, Alief is in very good shape financially, Winkler said, so the district should be able to “survive the reductions that the state has made to this biennium’s budget.”

But, she warns, if the state cuts funds two years from now, when the legislature next meets, “all school districts will be struggling.”