Categorized | Education, J-Line Buzz, News

District budget woes cut deep

By Dakota Wasson/J-Line Writer ~

The Texas budget crisis hit home this week when about 350 Humble ISD teachers on a first-year probationary contract found out that their contracts may not be renewed at the end of the school year.

More than 30 Atascocita High School teachers were told Thursday that Superintendent Guy M. Sconzo would recommend not renewing their contracts. The announcement came during an after-school meeting marked by tears, grim faces, and shock.

The non-renewals are a result of an expected $31 million gap in Humble ISD — one of the many Texas districts facing money troubles because of a $27 billion state budget shortfall.

To balance the budget, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Republican leaders in the Legislature have introduced bills to reduce education spending, according to a Feb. 14 article in the New York Times.  The cuts represent the largest budget cuts to public education since World War II, according to the New York Times article.

Each of the AHS teachers whose contract may not be renewed received a letter from Sconzo that read in part, “Humble I.S.D. will be facing the most devastating local budget deficit we have ever experienced … Unfortunately, preparing for the worst must include staffing reductions in all levels and in all functions in our district.”

The Humble ISD Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on Sconzo’s recommendation on March 29.

Humble ISD will have to reduce staffing by about 580 positions, according to a Feb. 7 letter from Sconzo to House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.  In the letter, Sconzo outlined the possible impact of the staff reductions, including boosting high school teaching loads to as many as 220 students, “virtually eliminating” arts education electives, reducing coaches, and nearly doubling the loads of counselors and school nurses.

In addition, teachers will likely go from teaching five-period work days to teaching six out of seven periods with one conference period.

 “This level of reductions will result in taking leaps backwards in all we have tried to do to further student learning,” Sconzo says in the letter.

Worry about the budget cuts has been hanging over AHS for weeks, as teachers  wondered whether they would be losing their jobs or feared that some programs will be eliminated.

“I am concerned that our AG/FFA program could lose some funding that is important to our operations and travel,” said AHS Agricultural teacher and FFA staff Traci Hendrix.

The overwhelming task of having larger classes and more students also concerns teachers. Science rooms, meant to hold 24 students, are already holding 30 or more students without budget cuts and teacher reductions, according to dual credit chemistry teacher James Simms.

“Larger classes lead to more discipline problems, make it harder to work with struggling students, and make it harder to teach overall,” said Simms. “In science, larger classes are going to create a much greater chance of an accident happening.”

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