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Fort Worth Students & Parents Plead For Programs

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News
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A teacher takes questions from his class. (credit: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)

A teacher takes questions from his class. (credit: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – One by one Tuesday, Fort Worth high school students asked the school board not to cut the district’s program aimed at helping disadvantaged youngsters get on track to go to college.

“That opens opportunities and doors to each and everyone of us,” said Victor Gonzalez, a high school student. “To students and for the community as well. If we let AVID die, then we let ourselves die.

But AVID – the Advancement Via Individual Determination program – is among the programs on the chopping block, joining gifted and talented, special education and pre-Kindergarten.

“I love being an assistant,” said Sonya Davis, a pre-K teaching assistant. “I love being with my pre-K children everyday, and everyday I make a big impact on their lives.”

Fort Worth ISD and many other school districts have urged state lawmakers to tap into the state’s Rainy Day fund to help make up for the $9 billion in proposed cuts to public education in the next two years.

But while touring a small business in Dallas Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry said lawmakers should keep their hands off it.

“If we use the Rainy Day fund to delay making those tough decisions, then all we’ve done is to kick the can down the road,” he said.

Fort Worth ISD school board vice president Juan Rangel disagrees with the governor.

“What we have right now, in my view, is the Titanic of public education,” he said. “This Titanic needs help because it’s going down fast.”

But Perry says with no new state money, the tough questions have to be pointed to the school boards.

“This is where I suggest you go to ask those questions first, not come to Austin, Tex. and say, ‘my oh my, what are we going to do, will you save us from ourselves?” Perry said.

De Sossaman, a mother and taxpayer, seemed to agree with Perry after realizing the district has more than 200 administrative positions.

“You guys need to cut funding for you,” she said, pointing at the administrators. “Not for our teachers.”

The Fort Worth school board rejected declaring a financial emergency and reduction in force by a 5 to 4 vote during Tuesday’s meeting. But they all voted to increase retirement incentive pay to teachers and other employees.

They’re hoping as many as 700 teachers and non-degreed employees take the district’s offer of $5,000 to announce their retirement by March 23.

More than 200 have signed up so far.

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