As DISD Struggles to Make Budget Cuts This Year, Board Warned It's Only Gonna Get Worse

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The Dallas Independent School District board was just told it's "still in limbo" when it comes to the exact dollar figure it can expect in cuts from the state Legislature, though something could land on Gov. Rick Perry's desk as early as late next week. Right now, Senate Bill 1 would take $63 million from the district for the 2011-'12 school year, then another $101 million the following school year. Which means it'll only get worse -- and even worse the year and then the year after that, with hundreds of million in cuts possible the next biennium.

As trustee Edwin Flores put it, "We need to start planning knowing our future budgets are less." Which prompted board president Lew Blackburn to quote, of all things, The Wiz: "No bad news." Not likely. Today's less bad news is next year's worse news ... and on and on after that as the state continues to reconfigure how it funds public education. Which will likely mean seeing a negative fund balance sooner than later if "we don't make some drastic changes," said Nancy Bingham.

As noted earlier, the board just received two budget presentations: 5.1 and 6.0. Version 5.1 assumes a $90-million cut from the state; version 6.0 assumes a $63-million cut, per SB1. The entire budgets are available here for 5.1 and here for 6.0. CFO and interim superintendent Alan King said 6.0 "stresses me out," because, frankly, it's a little too hopeful.

Version 5.1, which King said is likely to be the one adopted at the next meeting, isn't significantly different from the May 26 budget, with the exception of the fact the district would restore all the full-timers back to the Montessoris, vanguards and academies, once in danger of being gutted. Version 6.0 adds back 62 full-timers in the high schools and 158 in the middle schools.

Bernadette Nutall and Carla Ranger came back to Nan Dosker's request: They want to restore librarians to the budget. Nutall said she wishes the budget would have eliminated full-day pre-K ... for now.

"I support full-day pre-K, just not on the backs of middle schools and high schools," she said. "Everyone in the district should bear the burden."

To which Edwin Flores said, yeah, but it's imperative to educate as many kids as early as possible.

"It's painful," he said. "These are people, these are humans, these folks have families, but our mission is to educate ... and if we're going to focus on that, I'm all in favor of pre-K. It's going to pay dividends many times over."

King told Ranger and Nutall that adding back librarians will cost $3 million -- money he'll find only by laying off 42 more teachers. At which point Mike Morath said, hey, how do we even know who and what's important without doing the research. To cut this and restore that without doing the research is "foolishness in the extreme," he insisted. "Where do we get the most bang for our eucational buck?" For instance, he said, spending so much on high school seniors with one foot out door means "we are screwing little kids who are 4, 5 years old we could be teaching to read."

Up shortly: TAKS results.

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