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North Texas ISDs Respond To Education Cuts In House Budget

By Sharrie Williams, CBS 11 News
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas House passed its version of the budget Sunday, slashing myriad public services in a showing that cut $23 billion from current spending levels.

As expected, the $164.5 billion budget includes cuts to Medicaid, highways and prisons. Public schools took a big hit, as well: The House decided to underfund public education by $8 billion compared to the current budget.

“It’s the worst case scenario,” Dallas Independent School District History teacher David Lee said in response to the plan. “Which is going to leave us without the resources and the tools we need.”

For the past 11 years, Lee said he’s poured everything into his students at Dallas ISD’s Townview Magnet Center High School. But with massive budget cuts looming, he said fear is beginning to set in among teachers.

“Teachers are discussing whether or not we’d be eligible for unemployment benefits. It’s a challenge when you’re worried about if you’re going to have a job next year and if you’re going to be able to feed your family,” Lee said.

DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the district’s projected cuts have worsened from $150 million to $172 million.

He said more employees could be at risk of losing their jobs.

“This is the first time in my career that public education has been cut. In the past we could always go with what we had last year we can’t go with what we had last year,” Hinojosa said.

Clint Bond, Fort Worth ISD spokesman, said in an email that the district is coming out better that its financial analysts expected. No district had hard numbers to work with, so all expectations were based on possibilities, officials said.

Fort Worth ISD initially projected a deficit of $80 million to $85 million. But under the House bill, that number decreased to $60 million to $61 million.

Bond said 454 teachers and other employees have accepted the retirement incentive and the district is now looking at cuts to programs.

Mike McSwain, chief financial officer for Cedar Hill ISD, said the House budget softens the blow a bit for his district. However, it still expects to lose 15 percent of its state funding.

The district needs to cut $6.5 million from next year’s budget, which means about 80 positions will be eliminated. Seventy-five will come from voluntary resignations, but the other five will be laid off.

The five layoffs include a coach, a fine arts instructor and three teachers. McSwain said they received a written notice two weeks ago.

Cedar Hill ISD called a special board meeting Monday night to vote on approving the 75 resignations and five terminations for next year.

“That was not pleasant,” McSwain said. “Our HR department handled it and it’s not good when you have to let anyone know that their job won’t be here next year.”

“I had a friend liken it to losing their arm at the shoulder or at the elbow,” he added. “Both are still painful. You’re still losing a part of your arm and its not good for our kids.”

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