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1200 teachers at risk in HISD

That’s a lot of jobs.

The Houston school board is scheduled to vote Thursday on Superintendent Terry Grier’s plan to reduce the amount of money the district doles out to each school, paving the way for layoffs in light of a projected state funding shortfall. This is the first major step in a months-long process to balance the district budget.

District officials can’t say with certainty how many school employees will be out of work because principals must set their budgets, state funding could change and some job loss could be absorbed through attrition.

But HISD’s chief financial officer, Melinda Garrett, says pink slips are a guarantee.

“There are real people behind some of this,” she said in an interview Monday after presenting the budget plan to the school board.

To get a simple picture, a $65 million cut equates to more than 1,200 teaching jobs across the Houston Independent School District.

Boil the numbers down to the school level, and that’s four teachers per campus on average.

HISD’s policy allows school principals to set their own budgets, so some might be able to reduce job loss by makings cuts in other areas.

“They’ll cut supplies, field trips. They might have a (junior varsity) team they decide to cut,” Garrett said. “They could cut teachers, clerks, counselors. It’s going to come from a variety of sources.”

All of which is just fine by Rick Perry. It’s also not all there is to HISD’s budget, as their total projected shortfall, under a self-described “optimistic” assumption of only $5 billion in state cuts to public education, is $171 million. There will be more cuts from the central admin and likely elsewhere, so more jobs lost, and very likely a tax rate increase on top of that. There is also the possibility of furloughs and/or pay cuts in combination with or as a replacement for some job cuts, and also of larger class sizes, which may make cutting some teachers’ jobs easier. And if there are no fundamental changes in Texas’ tax and revenue structure – specifically, if nothing is done to close the structural deficit caused by the 2006 property tax cut – we’ll likely face the same problem in two years’ time. That’s the Texas Century for you. Hair Balls has more.

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