HOUSTON – Houston Independent School District principals have to begin deciding what to cut at each campus and more than 1,000 teaching jobs could be eliminated.
Pressure to act now comes from a state law that mandates that any teacher that will be cut has to be notified by mid April.
The school board voted Thursday night to continue to explore closing four elementary schools, as well as cutting $275 per student from each campus. The final vote on the school closures is expected in April.
The budget shortfall for the state’s biggest district is at least $171 million.
All of this, the board emphasized, is not because of a district financial problem, their fingers pointed directly to Austin and the Texas State Legislature.
"People talk about the fact that we just have to live within our means. That's fine, HISD was living within its means. This is not a district deficit. This is not a district crisis. This is not a local crisis," said HISD Trustee Harvin Moore.
That is no solace to those most affected by the cuts, especially at the four campuses that could be closed.
"Now, not only are we trying to save our school, but also fight for our jobs. It is just very important today,” said HISD Teacher Sophia Palos. “It is a big fight, a double fight, it is just very scary. Here we are at the end of the year. We don't even know if we are going to have a job."
Even after the cuts a $60 million budget shortfall would remain. Solutions include raising taxes, cutting homestead exemptions, furloughs and even across the board salary cuts.
Ideally the state will provide more, but no one is optimistic, and in fact, it could be much worse.