Angelina County schools brace for state budget balanced on their backs

By Holley Nees - bio | email

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – It's a problem consistent across Angelina County; school districts are getting hundreds of dollars less per student than the state average.

Lufkin Independent School District is getting $4 million less annually.

With the legislative session coming up, educators fear the state budget could be balanced on the backs of school children.

School officials say they've already made so many cutbacks, they're not sure what else can go.

Right now Lufkin students are worth about $400 less than the average Texas student.

"We can't find many more efficiencies without cutting bone marrow in substantial programs that help us be as successful as we are," said Lufkin ISD Superintendent Roy Knight.

Diboll ISD said he's right. They're getting about $500 less than the state average per student.

"For us, our early childhood programs are essential to our most vulnerable population," explained Knight. "Should we lose funding, those programs will go and for our districts, that will be at least 600 kids who have lost one and a half years worth of education, who are most vulnerable."

Lufkin ISD is bringing in an outside auditor to find ways they can cut costs.

For the past two years, Knight's district hasn't been replacing everyone that leaves. This year, they started with 25 less employees, which means class sizes grew.

"It's kind of crowded and the teachers can't pay attention to each individual student as much," explained Lufkin High School Senior Ashleigh Knox.

Lufkin is not cutting programs or teachers, but districts across the county fear it could come to that.

Although, extra-curricular activities only account for about two percent of the budget.

"You can't challenge kids these days in a global economy and concentrate only on reading, writing, and arithmetic," Knight.

"If we didn't have them there would be a lot of kids who would just go home and sit and they wouldn't be a part of school or really be involved in anything," said Lufkin High School Senior Emily Weaver.

"Our goal is to find other places that we can whittle away, but we've been whittling away now for five consecutive years," he said. "The only thing left to whittle now is indeed muscle and bone."

Knight said districts won't know how much funding they have until the end of May or even later when the state budget is set.

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