An agreement pending final approval is stirring panic from Houston to El Paso. Lawmakers have agreed on a plan that would reduce education spending nearly $4 billion from what the public school system is owed under current distribution laws.
Analysts say almost 50,000 of Texas’ 333,000 public school teachers could lose their jobs under the Senate plan.
In the Austin school district, more than 500 notices have gone out. In Houston, the state’s largest district, 730 teachers have been told their contracts will not be renewed for the next school year.
Both the House and Senate plans would significantly cut funding for full-day pre-kindergarten, teacher incentive pay, college financial aid, arts, and numerous other education programs. Many districts have proposed closing campuses to save money.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed cutting more than $1 billion from public schools to help close a multibillion-dollar budget gap. A competing education spending plan being debated by Pennsylvania lawmakers would ensure that each district receives at least as much state aid as it received in the 2008-09 school year.
Many Pennsylvania school districts, particularly the poorest ones, are preparing to raise taxes, lay off staff, end programs, or close buildings to absorb the expected financial blow. Some stand to lose more than 20 percent of their state aid for classroom instruction, tutoring, full-day kindergarten, and other purposes.
Officials in Philadelphia, the state’s largest school district, say they face a $629 million budget deficit and will have to eliminate 3,800 jobs—including almost 1,300 teachers—and end full-day kindergarten, among other painful reductions, to make ends meet.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, has blasted the district’s plan to balance its budget in part by cutting early childhood programs, calling it short-sighted.