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School Districts Nearing Own Budget Deadlines

Public school budget cuts are coming, but for now, school districts still don't know by how much. As Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, a special session on education funding could push decisions past school district deadlines.

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Just like the Texas Legislature, school districts have deadlines to meet in setting budgets for the fall. 

“Yes, there’s some very important deadlines that are fast-approaching, actually,” said Jackie Lain, head of the governmental relations department at the Texas Association of School Boards.

Lain said most school districts won’t set their budgets until the middle of August. That gives them time to figure out how to spend their resources, even if lawmakers end up using a July special session to hammer out education funding. But about 150 districts, including Houston, Fort Worth and Georgetown, set their budgets in the middle of June.

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

“What would happen is they would adopt the budget as they normally would, and then if there were any changes that needed to be done, they would just amend that budget once we got more information from the state,” said Brad Domitrovich, a spokesman for Georgetown ISD.

Georgetown, like most school districts, has already proposed staff layoffs and other reductions in anticipation of state funding cuts. Domitrovich said making a second round of cuts or scrambling to re-hire teachers just days before the school year begins would be problematic.

“We’re in very prosperous times within our district, with a bond passing and expansion and more kids coming,” Domitrovich said. “Then, to have to deal with this, it’s very difficult for everybody to handle.”

It’s not just state funding that’s keeping school decisions on hold. Republican lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would remove certain education mandates, like the current 22-to-1 student-teacher class-size cap.

“People are not linking these two issues, but they are inextricably linked,” Lain said. “If you’re laying off teachers, you’re going to have to increase your class sizes.”

If that bill doesn’t pass, many school districts that made personnel decisions anticipating a larger allowed class size will have to go back to the drawing board.

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State government Budget School finance Texas Legislature