HOUSTON – One would think school districts would be teaching, but with the coming automatic federal budget cuts, they have been learning like everybody else.
“We are still receiving information on a daily basis, but the best information we have now is that the potential impact for Houston schools next school year, the 2013-14 school year, would be a little over $1 million,” said Jason Spencer, spokesman for the Houston Independent School District.
That is better than the $12 million hit HISD was expecting, but it’s where it will come from that is the concern.
“Students who are not native English speakers, students who are from low-income households and our special education students, really our most vulnerable students. Programs serving them would be the hardest hit,” Spencer said.
Most federal funds are tied to specific programs or at least areas where the funding must be spent.
The cuts are coming from the U.S. Department of Education, and some parents think the whole situation is a bad example for their children.
“That is very frustrating for a parent to realize that that in their mind the best way to balance the budget is to make cuts in education when that should be the foundation of our entire government,” said Ryan Harder, a parent.
Gini Rodriguez, an HISD parent, said that education should be the priority.
“We really need to put more money into our school, education, regardless if they are special needs or not,” Rodriguez said. “What are we going to do tomorrow when nobody knows how to read?”
Another parent said that the funding for the at-risk students should not be touched.
“You hurt the kids that need the help the most,” Curry Buckalew, who has two children in HISD, said. “There is a lot of waste I am sure in the school systems, but I would not touch the money for the at-risk kids.”
The district thinks that it may be able to make up the shortfall from other federal funds in the budget without hurting services, but it still does not know exactly what the dollar amounts will be.
HISD said that the bigger concern is the $120 million in annual cuts from the state legislature, and how long those might last.