Teacher Layoffs Would Hamper Some Local Economies

AUSTIN (AP)– Gov. Rick Perry can’t quit talking about jobs.

He used the word 19 times in his recent state of the state address and has made it a top spending priority. But if Perry realizes his vision of a budget balanced through cuts alone, 100,000 teachers could lose their jobs.

That’s about a third of the 333,000 teachers employed by Texas public schools.

“In a small town, the school is the largest employer,” said Deborah Ottmers, assistant superintendent for business and finance at the Fredericksburg school district. These proposed cuts would be “a huge hit on the economy in any town.”

Plans for layoffs are stirring panic from Houston to far West Texas. And while the Legislature has until May to write a budget, districts can’t wait to see what happens. The pink slips have already started in places such as Austin, Round Rock and Dallas.

Perry, meanwhile, keeps talking about jobs. Just not teaching jobs.

“The governor has put a priority on bringing jobs to Texas,” said Milton Rister, Perry’s director of administration. Rister was outlining Perry’s request for millions of dollars to give companies in return for doing business or making films in Texas. None of those programs, though, will save the jobs of Alan and Nikki Guckian.

Alan Guckian’s position as north Austin band director has been cut to half-time. His wife, a high school drama teacher expecting their second child in June, was laid off.

“It makes me sick to my stomach to see some of the things they’re arguing about in the Capitol,” Alan Guckian said. “There are a lot of people that won’t be able to pay their mortgage and they’re still talking about attracting movie people.”

Economists say sudden job losses, like those to the Guckian family, will lead to even more job losses.

“If you lay off 1,000 teachers you’re going to have some greater number of that jobs loss because, presumably, those teachers are not going to be spending money in those communities,” said Terry Clower, director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas. “That’s going to flow through the economy.”

That’s already started for the Guckians. Lately, they’ve traded in dinners out with friends for casseroles and ramen noodles at home. They have started saving hand-me-downs for the new baby. Phone service and cable television will probably be next.

Still, Perry continues to brag that Texas is a lone bright star in an otherwise dreadful economy. He repeatedly reminds audiences that, at 230,000, Texas added more jobs last year than any other state.

Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the governor values public education but plans to follow through on his promise to cut the budget and keep taxes low.

“The governor has spent a considerable amount of time discussing the importance of public education and how it will remain a priority,” Frazier said. “He recognizes these are challenging times and he’s going to be working with lawmakers to balance the budget without raising taxes while protecting essential services.”

Perry’s office says the Texas Enterprise Fund, a deal-closing account to lure big employers to Texas with financial incentives, has spent more than $425 million to bring more than 56,000 jobs to Texas since its inception in 2003. That amounts to about $7,600 per job over the last seven years.

But it’s not clear whether those jobs wouldn’t have come to Texas anyway.

Perry’s office has asked for an extra $50 million to spend in the next budget, a figure that would keep 1,000 teachers employed, based on Texas’ average teacher salary.

By offering incentives to produce movies and television programs in Texas, the Texas Film Commission has created more than 6,700 full-time jobs, Rister said. Perry is asking for an extra $20 million for that program. That money could save 400 teacher jobs.

In the current budget, schools got $50 billion in state and federal money to teach 4.8 million students. Proposed budgets would short Texas schools $10 billion, a figure that includes money that would be necessary to pay for an estimated 160,000 new students expected to enroll over the next two years.

Responding with anger and panic, thousands of teachers and parents from across Texas are expected to descend on the Capitol later this month for a “Save Texas Schools” rally, urging lawmakers to use all available money — including $9.4 billion set aside in the state’s Rainy Day Fund — to fully fund public schools.

Perry’s request has angered some lawmakers.

“Help me understand … that we’re going to spend millions of dollars on tourism and movie production, but we’re going to be cutting back Medicaid, letting teachers go?” Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, asked Rister when he asked for the money. “Help me understand how you sit there and ask for those kinds of feel-good programs that might create some jobs, but at the same time we’re letting medical students go, residential residents go, state employees, help me?”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


One Comment

  1. Chelly says:

    Governor Perry NEEDS to come spend a day in my Pre K classroom so he can see first hand what his school budget cuts will do to Texas children. Yes, I just got through watching Undercover Boss. He could get a “film company” to follow him at my school, doing my job with 20 4-5 years old children. These kids are going to need the best education possible if they have any chance of breaking the poverty cycle. My school has 80% of their students living below the poverty level. I fully support the idea of eliminating twelfth grade and expanding Pre K programs. It has been proven that Pre K costs half and the children learn twice as much. So Gov. Perry you are invited to come to my school and be a teacher for a day.

    1. Kevin says:

      So your solution is to cut out an entire grade level that prepares students for college and/or the workforce and expand something that isn’t absolutely necessary?

    2. Kevin says:

      If “it has been proven….”, where are your studies that prove your point?

    3. Todd says:

      That is because most of them are illegals !

    4. Chelly says:

      It has been proven students in12th grade learn half as much and it costs twice as much as Pre kindergarten. Look at all the students in remedial courses in college. With all the AP dual credit courses in high school, they need to be going to college in 12 th grade. We have had 11th grade as the highest grade before. Most students only go half a day their sr. Yr anyway Pre kindergarten is necessary. It is the old kindergarten that we attended. Students are reading in kindergarten now, because they learn phonemic awareness in Pre kindergarten.

      1. StopSlickRick says:

        There is a representative in the Fort Worth area, I believe, that recommends ending high school at the 11th grade since senior years are typically filled with electives and we really miss out on some of the more developmentally important early childhood years by beginning education at age 5. His is a very interesting proposal. Of coure, in this state people are too blinded by the thought of illegals to see the merit of early childhood programs. It’s a shame.

  2. dan39johnson says:

    56,000 jobs over the last 7 years from the texas enterprise fund and we paid $425 million to get them???

    Population growth alone over that 7 years was 4 million people. Just to keep up with the population growth we need 72 times that many jobs! That’s a two orders of magnitude chasm.

    Gee, purchasing jobs at $7,600 per job, to gain 4 million jobs would only require $30.4 billion. Great plan guys!

    Greenspan’s “excessive exhuberance” is still alive and well.

    The second largest DEPRESSION (honesty now) in US history is the quintessential definition of “Rainy Day”.

    If we use predominantly cuts, we’ll put our state into a steep dive and tailspin that will take at least a generation to climb out of. Texas is already in the bottom quartile in many ways, such as education. hi-tech employers want an educated community.

    Many people will simply choose to walk away from a state full of bottom of the barrel programs and benefits.

    That’s the current conservative strategy: leave, or die off.
    And that cycles back to the beginning: “You first.”

  3. Wayne says:

    This is what happens….when you re-elect a 3-term LOSER….

  4. Confundid says:

    Mr. Perry needs a diversion to distract Texans. Perhaps he should execute a few more innocent people.

    Why would a business relocate to Texas if its workers cannot educate their children? Texas already has the worst education system of all 50 states. Is Mr. Perry’s objective to make Texas’ education system the worst in the world?

    So, Mr. Perry does not value education and believes that it is okay to execute innocent people. And Texans are okay with that?

    1. Chelly says:

      Texas ranks 25th among the 50 states in 2008. Far from #1. gov. Perry is not thinking of our children nor their future, he is too worried about politics and the film industry.

      My employer cares more about athletics than academics, so if my school does not put academics first, why should the governor?

  5. Sue says:

    Look up the comprehensive annual financial report and you’ll find out that Texas has trillions in investments that aren’t included in the “budget.” Look for Walter Burien’s videos.

    For example, the General Land Office earns over $1600 billion each year in oil and gas revenues. Half of that goes to the Public School System, but they refuse to release the details of where the rest of the money goes.

  6. grahawk says:

    My question, once again, what happened to the money promised by Ann Richards D-gov for education when the Texas Lottery was introduced?

    1. Rodney says:

      Richards wasn’t gov long enough to make sure the money went to schools and not the general fund.It was suppose to lower property tax too which it never did.You can thank Bush for that too!

      1. curious says:

        Guess we should of had her for Gov 4 more years. She also instituted a 10 cent a gallon gas tax where did it go. I think we should reinstate the draft. How many people would have faith in RODNEY protecting you and your rights.

  7. Rick McDaniel says:

    Find a better way to fund public schools, or close them. Then everyone will be forced to pay the true cost of educating their children, in private schools.

    1. magnetmom says:

      The state of TX currently spends about $7000 per year on each student. Private school costs $25,000 per year. I am pretty sure there are many families who can’t pay $25K for ONE child to go to high school. I know my family can’t.

  8. curious says:

    They should be looking at a bill HB1043 authored by two republicans that would deny free enterprise to a group of people that spend millions of dollars in the texas economy (feed, lumber, wire, vet supplies) that support farmers and small businesses. This is not a government subsidized industry. The people that are lobbying for it THE HSUS dont contribute one dime to the texas economy. The only ones they are contributing to is corrupt politicians. They did away with the horse kill plants in Texas and 1200 jobs. The plants went to Mexico along with the jobs. It drove down the price of horses even the high dollar ones, and now people cant afford to feed them and are turning them loose on the public, and the HSUS sure isnt rounding them up and spending their donations on them so Teachers you need to ask Austin why is this happening. Why are they harming the Texas economy and doing away with your jobs. All feel good stuff has consiquentious.

    1. Rodney says:

      anyone who eats horse meat needs to be shot!

      1. curious says:

        Whos forcing you to eat anything.World WAR one vets were fed lots of horse meat by YOUR GOVERNMENT but guess thats different so they could be strong enough to make sure you got your rights to control other peoples lives.

  9. ilvrw says:

    Rick Perry’s plan is simple….all educators need to get these acting jobs and all will be OK. You see how much of an acting job he has done as governor so acting must be easy. He needs to be constantly reminded that his campaign promises included having education as a very high priority. Go back to acting school, this act is getting very old. We will see how long the “rich get richer” when the poor stop putting money in our economies.

  10. D. White says:

    I think teachers should be held accountable for some of the causes they write kids up for in Elementary Schools. Especially when children are doing their work and teachers trick kids by putting the next days work on the back of the paper and just tell kids not to do that page today that it is tomorrows work and show no care of how they hurt a childs self esteme if a child makes an error and does that page. he teachers at our Elementary school seem to have a lot of time on their hands. Parents need to be able to give a teacher report card and for it to be able to be sent directly to the board. Maybe that can weed out some of those that need to be cut and those who really care about their profession and making a difference in a childs education instead of jus a pay check for them. They could also be the lunchroom mointors at our school instead of hiring part-time employees to do that task.The teachers also have a free lunch period along with the time they don’t spend with the students when they are in P.E. and Music. We could definitely use some cuts at our Elementary School in S.E. Arlinton,Tx. Some of our teachers are somewhat LAZY and have the kids to even grade their own papers! What a shame.

    1. oestar2000 says:

      Clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about. You are one of those parents who make excuses for your child’s behavior….. Plus, this has nothing to do with the topic at hand

    2. Concerned citizen says:

      Hence the obvious need for quality education in Texas and not cuts. You apparently don’t get it.

  11. Andy says:

    Stop war that costs us 2 billion a day and pay the union crybabys!

  12. mike says:

    I think we all should have government jobs then nothing will ever be cut and no one will ever have to suffer. I’m not sure who has to pay for it but who cares. Actually I’m not sure who pays for it al now, I just know that there is no need for anymore pie in the sky business spending. Those corrupt business’s should all be shut down.

    1. StopSlickRick says:

      Mike, do you live in reality or just spout teaparty rhetoric for fun? Government must provide basic services. I know your people don’t like that, but it’s a fact of life. These things require government workers and tax funding to support them. Yet people like yourself will be the first to complain when the highways are potholed, the schools are closed, and the firefighters don’t respond when the space heater sets your double wide on fire. Hate to break it to you, dude, but that means you must pay taxes and there will be government workers to deliver these services. Nobody has ever suggested that this has to be done to the detriment of business. In fact, in this state, the interests of business have been well taken care of – as a business person, I can attest to this.

      Here’s a thought, how about you take off your tinfoil hat, tune out Rush and Hannity and channel your energies to something constructive? First, you can find out the real cause for the Texas budget deficit – google property tax reduction in 2006, structural tax deficit, or even Carolyn Keene Strayhorn’s letter to Perry in 2006 warning of this very disaster. GET INFORMED. Then, if you’re so concerned about your tax money, how about you demand the lawmakers stop playing shell games with your tax money and fund the services, like education, that they’re constitutionally required to provide the citizen of this state?

      People need to quit parrotting the rhetoric of teabggers and get educated about what’s really happening to your tax money. Start questioning those in charge of the purse strings. You just might be surprised at what you find.

  13. John Tyler says:

    Ask any teacher to walk through theri own school and point out the dead weight, the bad apples, the ones we would all like to see gone and I can promise you every school has several. That is the waste we are trimming and should have trimmed a long time ago. Most teachers do their jobs well, but some don’t. We all know who we are talking about. Face it, some teachers are idiots that deserve to be fired. Perry is NOT shutting down education. Perry is simply cleaning it up. Deep down y’all know it needs it too.

    1. StopSlickRick says:

      Are there bad teachers – absolutely. Is there excessive fat in school districts – definitely (see Arlington ISD, for example). Is that the problem – NO! The problem is a structural tax deficit that was created in 2006 when property taxes were cut and funding was not replaced. (Visit http://www.savetxschools.org for more information.)

      This funding imbalance is perpetual – it will not go away unless services are DRASTICALLY cut or funding mechanisms are redesigned. I can assure you, this is much bigger than getting rid of the bad apples on campus and trimming the fat at the central administrative office. This is a much deeper problem. If the funding problem is not fixed it will devastate education in this state for a generation. And, as we barely lead Mississippi and Louisiana in educational achievement now, do we really want to make matters worse?

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