By Elsa Maxey
Reductions in force have impacted Fort Bend ISD’s budget, reportedly to the tune of more than $24 million, but it is still not at a balanced budget. In about a month, June 13, the district’s board of trustees is scheduled to approve a budget.
Recently, the Department of Education freed up funds that came to Texas for public education. But, of those, it is not known how much will come this direction. In the meantime, at the current legislative session in Austin, the House and Senate are in talks with public school financing budgets that are $4.6 billion apart, said J. David Thompson, III of Thompson & Horton LLP on Friday last week at a Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce sponsored luncheon on school finance.
Thompson serves as legislative counsel for the Texas Association of School Administrators, some school districts and other groups. For the past 20 years, he has been involved in most legislative activities affecting public education.
Thompson said “The number one issue in the legislature is budget, the number two issue in the legislature is budget, the number three issue in the legislature is budget. The number four issue is everything else.” Of the $27 billion shortfall statewide, he said the House and Senate are taking different approaches at balancing the state budget. The Senate version of a budget proposal for supporting public education in Texas is higher than that of the House, Thompson said. He sees a fundamental issue in the state budget with the danger of continuing what he called a built-in structural deficit akin to living a lifestyle that increases and cannot be afforded.
The Rainy Day Fund with $9.6 billion, may get bigger, he said, but most of it is being left untouched. As for the lottery financing public education, he said that we are not buying enough tickets. “The lottery raises enough money to support public schools for one week of operations.”
So what are public school students to do? In FBISD, on Monday after the district’s budget meeting, they gathered at the administration building carrying signs in protest of budget cuts affecting fine arts programs, some also in support of teachers. There were students and parents that later addressed the school board, which also met on Monday, and they entered their comments and sentiments into the school record for consideration by the board.