E. Texas superintendents back from Austin

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - When school districts from across the state converged on Austin, the state education commissioner knew why they were there.

"He called it the big elephant in the room," said Grey Burton, Martinsville Independent School District superintendent. "That everybody wanted to discuss the budget, wanted to know what's going to happen with our school funding, how's it all going to play out."

More than half the school districts in Texas have signed a resolution asking legislators to make public education the highest priority when addressing the state budget.

The plea is don't touch the main portion of school funding. They urge the legislature not to make public schools bear the burden of a massive state revenue shortfall of at least $15 billion.

" We realize we have to sacrifice, but when they start saying about laying teachers off, doing some other things, that makes us real uneasy," said Burton.

Districts have been told to expect discretionary funding, such as grants, to be reduced.

"That money is used for things like pre kindergarten and technology," said Burton. Very small districts don't have that any way, so the loss isn't as significant as it is for bigger districts.

It forms a tornado, certainly the time educators say utilize reserve funding. " The rainy day is here and that money was set aside for these type situations and we feel like that it's time to tap and use that," said Roger Dees, Chireno Independent School District superintendent.

Nacogdoches Superintendent Dr. Rodney Hutto states, "The current funding mechanism is inadequate and it needs to be looked at closely. All aspects should be studied so that there is more equitable funding across the state."

This is something smaller school districts face every year. "A great number of districts here in east Texas have an extremely low target revenue. Most of us fall below the state average and we just cannot afford a budget cut," said Dees.

Educators say they came home with a new found optimism, but they can't help but wonder if that's part of the political game too.

" A lot of it is really fear based. Once you terrible, you can always come back and it seems a little better," chuckled Burton.

It's the oldest budget trick in the book and not to be overlooked by lawmakers.

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