AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – A Texas Senate Committee is hearing debate on a bill that would allow school districts to cut teachers pay and use furlough days as ways to trim budgets.
The bill, according to author State Senate Education Committee Chairman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, would give school districts more flexibility.
Shapiro and Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa testified at the state capitol Tuesday.
Hinojosa said school districts simply don’t have anything to work with. “We need tools in our tool kit. We’re utilizing almost all of our tools already,” he said.
Hinojosa testified that he would rather trim teacher salaries and not cut positions. “None of us want to do that, but one-percent of payroll for us is $8.5 million. So, up to 10-percent that’s $85 million. That helps us manage,” the superintendent said of options. “Now, we’re not gonna do 10-percent, we may do a couple of percent, we may furlough three or four days, but that’s the whole key.”
While school districts can cut the hours administrators or other workers, under Texas law teachers cannot be put on furlough.
Hinojosa told lawmakers that work and discipline the DISD $150 million budget shortfall could be corrected. “Some districts don’t have to do anything, because they’ve got enough reserves to get them through this situation,” he said. “But if you give us the tools, and let us make those decisions, and let us be accountable for those decisions to our public and our stakeholders then we can help manage this very difficult situation that you’re in and that we’re in.”
Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis said lawmakers need to be careful making changes to the law. “…making it something that’s a much more streamlined, simpler process, but not necessarily something that’s permanent. That would allow us in two years to look at it again and see how it’s working,” she suggested.
Some 650 teachers in the DISD have resigned voluntarily through their incentive program and 600 teachers in the Fort Worth Independent School District are being offered an increased incentive to retire.
Districts are rushing to balance their budgets because state law requires them to notify teachers of layoffs, reassignments or pay changes at least 45 days before the end of the school year.