Katy ISD students stage second day of protests after teacher layoffs

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by Leigh Frillici / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on April 15, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 15 at 6:20 PM

KATY, Texas – Students at multiple Katy ISD high schools and junior highs took to the streets again Friday, ditching class to protest teacher layoffs.

Morton Ranch High School was put on lockdown during the protests. Steve Stanford, a spokesperson for the district, said some of the students were disrupting classes. In order to keep the school under control, the doors were shut. Students who were outside were told to stay outside and the kids that were inside were also told to stay put.

Some students at West Memorial, Morton Ranch, Beck and McDonald junior highs, as well as Morton Ranch and Seven Lakes high schools, held "sit-in" protests, while others just walked out.

"I think they should stop firing teachers and not spend money on things they don’t need to spend it on," said Tristan Wagner, a student at Seven Lakes High.

Well-versed in the fact that their district is facing a possible $50 million shortfall due to expected state budget cuts, some students wondered about the financial situation of the district. 

"While they’re giving bonuses out to superintendents, I think people should realize teachers are important and we need them," said Jeanette Valvuena.

It’s a complaint the district has heard before.

"The superintendant did not give himself a raise," said Stanford. "The raise he received was the same raise that everyone in the district received, including teachers."

Katy ISD expected the protests to spill over to its administration building after school let out, but just a few people showed up.

"I guess people are just scared," said Gabby Boschma, another Katy ISD student. 

The teachers who were laid off are also scared. Many feared if they spoke publicly, the district would not hire them back. 

"Many teachers don’t want to show their faces and speak up because they feel they (the district) will retaliate and they will lose their chance," said a Katy ISD teacher who had just been laid off.

So in the meantime, kids and their parents are speaking out. 

"Who’s going to tutor our kids after school?" asked Patty Kilby, a Katy ISD parent. "What about our coaches? Our school nurses are being cut. It’s not just teachers and it’s really scary."

The walkouts began Thursday morning at Morton Ranch High School, eventually spreading to other campuses, after hundreds of teachers were pulled out of class and told they no longer had jobs.

The district confirmed that 350 teachers and other employees were laid off due to a $50 million budget shortfall. Another 200 jobs were eliminated through attrition.

The job cuts will save the district about $23 million.

District officials said they hoped the walkouts would be a learning process for the students, and that none of them would be punished for participating.

But starting Monday, administrators said they want the students back in class and will be issuing tickets for disruption of school if the walkouts continue.

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