San Antonio/ Politics & Govt
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Published on January 10, 2024
Texas School Districts Face Financial Strain with Cuts to Special Education and Lack of Safety FundingSource: Google Street View

Texas school districts are bracing for a one-two punch to their budgets, with a federal administrative decision to slash more than $300 million a year in special education funding and a lack of new funding for necessary school safety measures. According to data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, quoted by Express News, some districts like Northside ISD in San Antonio, Dallas ISD, and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD are facing over $10 million in shortfalls each. Houston ISD is also set to lose close to $10 million.

This depletion in funds was not anticipated by many, leaving school districts to reconcile with the new budgetary constraints. "Had we known this in August or September, we probably would have made the adjustments at that time," Rene Barajas, deputy superintendent for business and finance at Northside, told Express News. The decisions to slash these funds are leaving schools with no option but to potentially reduce expenditures significantly. Meanwhile, superintendents across Texas were equally surprised to find out legislative proposals for school safety funding fell flat after the Uvalde school shooting had prompted calls for heightened security measures.

In a session that ended without additional support, districts are now facing the reality of addressing new safety mandates without the expected financial aid. With existing deficit budgets, districts such as the Dallas ISD are considering deep cuts, which might include eliminating extracurricular activities, field trips, and potential layoffs, as ABC13 noted. Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said, "Whether we're rural, large, small, urban, suburban, when we superintendents get together and chat, all of us are like, 'Where are we going to get the dollars? What are you cutting?'"

Elizalde also highlighted the district's attempt to implement the new security measures ordered by House Bill 3, which requires an armed security guard at every school. However, the funding provided by HB 3 doesn't cover the entirety of these costs. "How do you, time and time again, continue to make cuts to make sure that we have the safest schools possible?" Elizalde posed the question to ABC13. Additionally, Michelle Carroll Smith, superintendent of Lytle ISD expressed the sentiment that having to rely on grants for critical areas such as school safety is far from practical, saying, "Something as serious and important as safety and security should not be dependent on grants."

The recently failed legislative proposals had potentially offered an extra $1.3 billion to $800 million in school safety funds. Without this aid, districts such as Hearne ISD are in a deficit and still need substantial funds to meet new safety requirements, including the provision of mental health support in schools. Hearne ISD Superintendent Adrain Johnson told ABC13, "I'm always pleased to see the strong security that exists there to protect democracy, to protect our legislators, to protect visitors, to protect us all. We want to see that same approach to our schools... because our education is part of our democracy, and it needs to be protected."