In this morning's New York Times, James C. McKinley looks at how Texas's $27-billion budget shortfall is about to devastate districts statewide -- while using the same word as Dallas Independent School District Michael Hinojosa only a few days ago to describe the coming cuts: "draconian." McKinley's piece comes but one day after state Sen. Florence Shapiro's S.B. 468, intended to give school boards some flexibility in dealing with how they run their districts, was referred to the Senate Committee on Education, of which Shapiro's the chair. She also spoke yesterday with KERA's Shelley Kofler about the flavor of leeway she's proposing (furlough days, salary freezes, "all kinds of activities ... to save money").
Many school administrators attribute the current budget crisis to an overhaul of the school finance system five years ago, which [Governor Rick] Perry and Republican leaders pushed through in response to popular anger over high property taxes. The Legislature put a cap on property taxes for schools and promised to make up the difference with a new business tax. But that tax has never produced enough revenue to make the districts' budgets whole.
The chronic shortfall in money for schools was papered over in the last two-year budget passed in 2009. Mr. Perry and Republican leaders in the Legislature used about $3.3 billion in federal aid under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to plug the hole. That aid has disappeared this year.
Incidentally, teachers, Alliance-AFT is also soliciting suggestions for cuts here: "Please give specific recommendations for areas you feel that Dallas ISD should consider in addressing the proposed budget cuts that will result from the 2011 legislative session's state funding."
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