Local school districts prepare for the national sequester

Diedra Harrison, director of special services for Lufkin Independent School District
Diedra Harrison, director of special services for Lufkin Independent School District

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As the clock continues to countdown to the possible sequester tomorrow, some independent school districts are preparing for the possibility of government cuts of $51,000,000 from the state's funding for special education programs.

Many positions will be taken away from Lufkin ISD's program, a program that works hard on preparing students with disabilities for graduation.

"Three or four teachers, para-professionals, related services personnel like occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists," said Diedra Harrison, the director of special services at Lufkin ISD.

Harrison says this is a waiting game for her as U.S. Congress continues to decide on alternative plans to combat the possible sequester by Friday.

"I'm already having to look at cuts in personnel just because of the cuts I've received in state and federal funding," Harrison said.

As a member of the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act, Lufkin ISD is facing a major setback when it comes to the fall budget for their special education program.

"They are already doing all they can do with less and now it's going to be even more less," Harrison said.

The possible cuts could cripple Lufkin ISD's special education program, a program that has more than 900 students in it. Harrison expects to lose around $150,000, a loss that would impact many services for the kids.

"It's going to affect everybody. These kids come to us with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, emotional disabilities and we need to find a way for them to be successful in the community and in the society when they graduate from high school or get out of school so they can be independent contributors to society," Harrison said.

It's a challenge the teachers and students will take on, sequester or not to make sure students can succeed in life.

Gary Martel, the superintendent for Diboll ISD, says the Texas Education Agency alerted him that they possibly would be withholding ten percent of the state's expected appropriations for local education agencies.

TEA will base how much money is awarded to LEA's depending on the outcome of the sequestration, Martel said. But, he says, the cuts wouldn't only affect budget planning for the special education program.

"Worse case scenario, we would loose up to 14 percent of the planning amounts. We do not receive planning amounts until the late spring of each year," Martel said. "We would not get increases in federal money for the future issues we will be faced with. It may not affect us this year, but it would affect us in the future with less money."

Central ISD superintendent Allen Garner says he doesn't know how much the sequester is going to affect his district, but he does know it will have a big impact.

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