I am sure you have all been hearing about the devastating budget cuts being made in Austin ISD. It has been a top story on all the news stations. After being in Austin at the Texas Association of School Administrators Mid-Winter Conference, I learned it seems almost all Texas school districts are in a similar situation. I received information from a well reputed school finance accounting firm, Moak, Casey and Associates. They projected how the current version of HB1 (the budget bill proposed by the House of Representatives) would affect each school district in each of the three implementation options. Those projections show that Mason ISD would receive from approximately $826,000 to $1,000,000 less in state funding for the 2011-12 school year. This would prove to be devastating to our school system. While I know this bill is nowhere close to being passed at this time and the final budget that is passed may not even resemble this bill, I do, however, believe we must begin to prepare ourselves for a serious funding cut.
I spent time in Harvey Hildebrand’s office on Monday, January 31st, with a large group of superintendents from his district. While he told us he does not believe it will be as bad as is projected, everyone will have to share some of the state’s economic burden by tightening our belts. As a group every superintendent in the room agreed that we should share in cutting our budgets, however we also made it clear most of our schools could not survive the kinds of cuts mentioned in the Moak/Casey projections. Below are listed some of the suggestions that we made to Representative Hildebrand:
· Postpone the implementation the new assessment system authorized by HB3 (the STAAR assessment system to replace the TAKS test) for at least two years as it will require more instructional resources and tutorial time for students to prepare for the rigor of this assessment.
· Use at least a portion of the rainy day fund to help fund the projected shortfalls.
· Reduce or eliminate the amount of money taken from public schools to finance charter schools.
· Eliminate the target revenue system of funding public schools that creates such a huge discrepancy in the amount of money paid per pupil among school districts (MISD receives $4970/student while Sonora ISD receives approximately $8300/student). Replace it with a more equitable system.
I encourage you to contact your senators and representatives regarding these issues or just simply tell them to place the students of Texas on the priority list for funding. The future of our state depends on them.
Rest assured your school board members and I are discussing and preparing for funding cuts for the next biennium that would have the least effect on the quality education expected from Mason ISD. Inevitably we will be faced with very difficult decisions and I welcome your input and appreciate your support.