AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Education Agency is laying off 178 employees this week as part of budget cuts ordered by the state Legislature.

TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said the agency is reducing its operating budget by $48 million, or 36 percent, most of which will come from the layoffs since payroll and benefits are the bulk of their costs.

The state education agency oversees pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade education and allocates billions of dollars to school districts.

The cuts are being made to deal with reduced state tax revenue caused by the nation’s economic downturn. The Legislature chose to cut spending by $15.2 billion rather than increase taxes or spend all of the $9.7 billion rainy day fund.

Thousands of state government layoffs are expected in the coming weeks.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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