Archive | March, 2011

What about us?

By Rossi McFadden/J-Line Writer

With teacher layoffs, bigger classes, and budget cuts looming, Atascocita High School junior Stephen Smith and sophomore Kianna Darden discuss how the changes will affect students. Click on the headline to view the video.

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Bracing for budget shortfall

By Dakota Wasson/J-Line Writer ~

The threat of budget cuts, teacher layoffs and program whittling is looming over Atascocita High School. It’s present in the faces of teachers, on the minds of administrators and in the fears of students.

“You see it in the teachers lounge and in the atmosphere,” said AHS Principal Dania Rovegno. “They’re worried.”

The budget worries stem from a $27 billion state shortfall, which is expected to result in cuts to public school funding. Humble ISD anticipates a $31 million budget gap.

Superintendent Guy Sconzo has said that 580 administrative and teaching positions need to be cut district-wide. About 350 first-year teachers, including 32 at Atascocita High School, have already been told that their contracts may not be renewed. The Humble ISD school board is scheduled to vote on the non-renewals on March 29.

If vacancies open up in the district, the 350 teachers will be the first ones to be rehired, according to Rovegno. AHS will only hire back teachers who have resigned on their own or those who are part of the 32 contract non-renewals.

Even with the stress and worry of being laid off or knowing they might not come back, AHS teachers have remained professional in the classroom, said Rovegno. The teachers still have a job to do, and students still in front of them, she noted.

However, AHS Associate Principal Ted Landry admitted that the learning environment, along with the way teachers teach, may be affected.

“The effects of the possible loss of teachers depend on the teachers’ strategies and teaching and different ideas,” said Landry. “Hopefully the quality of learning won’t be affected.”

 A rally on March 12 drew thousands of teachers, students, and parents to Austin, where they demonstrated against education cuts and urged legislators to dip into the state’s $9.4 billion Rainy Day fund.

Rovegno said she has been assured by Sconzo that no elective department or extra curricular activity program will be eliminated entirely. The cuts depend on the number of students signing up for a class and the number of teachers available to teach that subject.

“We trust our students, that whatever situation or environment they’re put in they will do their best, and it’s the teachers’ job to hold and deliver the information,” Rovegno said.

Some classes, such as A.P. or dual credit classes, may have a larger number of students to accommodate everyone who signs up. Other classes may stay the same, with an average of 32 students, according to Landry and Rovegno.

“It’s going to be difficult, but we have great teachers and employees,” said Rovegno. “We work as a team and I am confident that our teachers will find a way to make it work.”

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School spending by the numbers

By Alex Lance/J-Line Writer ~

Last year, Texas allocated about $75 billion for public school education, but the state remained below the national average in teacher salaries and per student spending.  Here is a look at education funding by the numbers.

Money Spent per Student in Texas 2009-10

Texas spends on average about $9, 000 per student each year — almost $1,500 under the national average.

Money Spent on Education in Texas

The money spent on education has been slowly climbing since 2002. The budget started out at $48 billion but has increased to $75 billion. There was a pretty significant jump from 2006-07 to 2008-09. The budget increased by about 26 percent.


Teacher Salary

Texas teachers are paid lower than the national average. The average salary for teachers in Texas is $48,261 versus the national average, $55,202.


Uses of Budget

Humble ISD has three major uses for its education budget. 86 percent of the budget goes to salaries for the teachers and other school administrators. About 9.5 percent is used for expenditures for almost anything. Humble ISD spends 4.5 percent on utility bills for all the schools.


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A department under pressure

By Ariana Yendry/J-Line Writer~

Danna Adkins had tears in her eyes when she talked about the Humble ISD budget cuts. Her English department at Atascocita High School will lose six first-year teachers whose contracts may not be renewed and two more who have decided not to return.

“We are losing really good teachers,” said Adkins, the English instructional coach.

In addition, English teachers who return next year may have more students, more work, and less time to spend with students in each class, Adkins said.

“If teachers have much larger classes, however, they will do whatever they can to help to student learn,” said Adkins, who noted that teachers next year may be teaching six classes a day, compared to the current five-class load.

Despite the stress on the teachers, and on the English department as a whole, Adkins said she has been fortified by her staff’s reaction to the crisis.

 “I’m impressed with the way teachers stay strong and hope for the best, even though their jobs are on the line,” said Adkins

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Challenges ahead for teachers who stay

By Mikaela Wall and Ashley Vance/J-Line Writers ~

Hillary Fortenberry is not worried about his job, but the Atascocita High School World Geography teacher is worried about grappling with bigger class sizes next year.

Fortenberry, who said he is confident that he will be back next year, is concerned that he will have trouble “keeping kids on task” and wonders how teachers will be able to handle so many students.

David Duez, who teaches Pre-AP World History, will also be returning next year – and also expressed concern about the obstacles that will face AHS teachers.

 “We are going to be challenged, there is no doubt about that,” said Duez, “There is potential to have 220 students per teacher.  Dividing that by six classes, you are looking at classes of 37 kids.”

Guy Sconzo, the Superintendent of Schools at Humble Independent School District, has said that 580 positions must be cut across the district.

“I am not an expert in school financing.  But, then again, who can be with this convoluted and ridiculous system they have designed?” said Duez. “Honestly, I am not sure how they can go district to district and divvy out cuts or monies. That seems like an impossible puzzle to put together.”

Despite the chaos and stress, Duez still has faith and looks at the bright side.

“We have amazing teachers at this school.  With absolute confidence I can say that this group of teachers will continue to work as hard as they can to support our student’s learning,” said Duez. “This budget crisis will knock us off our stride as a school, but I am confident we will keep on running.  We have a tremendous faculty and staff.  For that we are very lucky.”

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“I’m sort of sad”

By Bri’Anna Dilbeck and Camela Bluford/J-Line Writers ~

From freshmen to seniors, from Gold House to Red House, from classroom to band room, students at Atascocita High School are wondering and worrying how their education will be affected by potential budget cuts and teacher layoffs.

“I’m sort of sad,” said Daniel Orlas, a freshman, who voiced a sentiment shared by many students facing the loss of teachers.

About 350 first-year teachers have been told their contracts will not be renewed because of district budget woes. At AHS, about 32 teachers would be affected by the non-renewals. The loss of teachers could also result in larger class sizes, district administrators have said.

“It’s really stupid and sad. Really, it’s just sad and it’s hard for other teachers to find jobs,” said Betty Yifter, an AHS junior. “We won’t learn anything because everybody will make trouble and the teachers won’t be able to control the students.”

Like other students, Yifter was concerned that larger class sizes will make learning harder for students. “Education next year will be difficult,” Yifter said.

Sophomore Monica Garcia is also distressed by the possibility of losing teachers and having as many as 40 students in one class.

“It doesn’t feel right, I mean they didn’t do anything wrong,” Garcia said, referring to the teachers who may lose jobs. “One teacher and less students means a good education, but one teacher and lots of students means no education.”

Posted in J-Line Buzz, News135 Comments

Commentary: Cutting education not the answer

By Kaley Consford/J-Line Writer ~

Teacher’s lives have been completely altered because of the state’s $27 billion budget shortfall. Teachers will be searching for jobs that cease to even exist as the economy crashes. People who aspired to educate students, and worked hard to be able to share their compassion for knowledge with them, have had their dreams taken away.

Texas teachers are being both encouraged and forced to leave in order to try and fill the gap of an empty budget, yet Gov. Rick Perry still resists opening the $9.4 billion Rainy Day fund. Perry has agreed to dip into the fund this year, but is against using any of the money beyond the current budget year.

Opening up the fund doesn’t make Texas look weak; it just shows that Texas needs help.

Cutting teacher’s contracts and making classes larger will not result in anything beneficial for students or teachers. According to the TLC (Teaching Large Classes) Project, larger class sizes pose significant teaching challenges

The first-year contract teachers being laid off in Humble ISD are not the only cuts being made. Extracurricular activities may also be trimmed or eliminated. Sports, music, fine arts, and clubs are all in danger. According to the American Association of School Administrations, 15 percent of districts are eliminating bus routes and modifying extracurricular offerings or sports

That’s not fair to the students.

To take away teachers is one thing, but to take away the source of school spirit and enjoyable activities is like taking away the meaning of school for many students.

The budget crisis is not just hitting Humble ISD. The entire state is in peril. It’s evident that Texas needs help and that changes do need to be made, but the way Texas has approached this situation is not helping anyone.

Instead, it’s ruining teacher’s lives and creating a grim outlook for the future of education — and the future of the state.

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March 2011
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