AUSTIN (KXAN) — School districts across Central Texas are banding together and asking the state for more money.
“School districts across the state are struggling,” said Ed Ramos, Austin ISD chief financial officer.
This comes at a time when teachers continue to leave the industry and some school districts are having to make major cuts.
“The funding is not there,” said Thrall ISD superintendent Tommy Hooker.
According to district leaders around Central Texas, inflation has risen roughly 17% since 2019, the last time Texas increased school funding. Texas lawmakers would need to add $14.5 billion to school funding just to keep up with rising costs.
“We have a large task in public schools to fund initiatives for student success,” said Hooker.
“Each school in the state currently receives $6,160 per student based on the average attendance formula which puts the state in the bottom 10 in per-student funding,” said James Matlock with Hutto ISD.
“Back in 2019 when we were at $5,140 that basic allotment increased to $6,160 and that certainly did help districts,” said Del Valle ISD superintendent Dr. Anette Tielle.
There are currently a number of bills that could increase funding for schools including some that would boost the allotment, but district leaders worry that it won’t be enough.
“$90 to $150 would be a minimal increase to the basic allotment,” said Ramos. “What we really need is at least a $900 increase just to keep up with the inflationary pressures we have faced as a school district.”
If the funding does not increase significantly, leaders say cuts will have to be made, which could mean programs disappear or staff and teachers won’t get raises.
“For Austin ISD, we cut 600 positions last year just to balance our budget,” said Ramos.
“It means Del Valle and other School districts have to be creative when they are trying to prepare for teacher raises,” said Tielle.
For months, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis has been meeting with Austin ISD. He said AISD and Education Austin have agreed on a compensation plan.
By making this move internally to increase teacher and staff salaries the district expects to take on an estimated $54 million budget deficit if this plan is voted on, but more state funding would certainly help said Ramos.
“We are looking at strategies to reduce that overall deficit over the 23-24 school year,” said Ramos. “So we are looking at what the district spends on software, contracts we are looking at finding efficiencies throughout the district. As employees leave deciding through attrition if that position is needed so we do have some plans in place to make sure we do continue to reduce that deficit.”
In a press release sent out by Austin ISD, they say while there is only one month left in the Texas legislative session, there is still time for lawmakers to allocate more of the state’s record $32.7 billion surplus to public education.