It's been a long, contentious meeting of the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees, and we just got to the latest budget update. First, Carla Ranger wanted to know why Bernadette Nutall, with Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's OK, halted construction at a handful of South Dallas schools. Nutall said it was done with the community's blessing while the district evaluates its underpopulated campuses -- some of which, the super acknowledged, may well be have to be shuttered. As far as Ranger's concerned, that's bond money -- the people's money -- and the board should have had a say, not just a single trustee.
(And, this note: Newcomer Mike Morath, who's not afraid of speaking up on any and every subject, sounds like anything but a rookie.)
Then they got to the charter school update -- sans trustee Edwin Flores, who chairs the ad hoc committee but wasn't in attendance. Ranger again wondered what the hell -- why, she asked, are trustees flying around on the Dallas Regional Chamber's dime to look at Denver, Houston and Los Angeles's charter schools when, she insisted, the district needs to focus on its existing schools? "We are in a fight for our very existence," she said, "and every dollar taken away from us to go to a charter diminishes our ability to keep our teachers and help them."
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Then and only then did the board finally get to the Preliminary Budget Reduction Plan Version 4.0 -- all 73 pages of which you will find here. It was finished at 11 this morning, said Chief Financial Officer Alan King, who announced that based upon the latest projections, DISD expects to cut $120 million from next year's budget.
And since that's $10 million more than previously projected, King said, he will not be able to add full-day pre-K back into the 2011-'12 budget. Also, even with all the buyouts taken in recent months, the district still guesstimates it needs to lay off 1,091 full-time employees -- 274 of whom will be teachers (and 208 of whom will be custodians). The district is also looking at upping middle-school class ratios from 23 students to one teacher to 27:1, and jumping the high-school ratios from 25:1 to 27:1. Planning periods would also be eliminated.