Visit public schools across Texas, and you’ll see more students packed into classrooms. You’ll see fewer of just about everyone else – teachers, librarians, counselors, janitors.
New data from the Texas Education Agency illustrate what school officials have decried for months: Their staffs are stretched thin following the unprecedented state budget cuts that took effect this school year.
Statewide, districts eliminated roughly 25,000 positions, including more than 10,700 teaching jobs. Overall, districts cut their workforce by 4 percent – through attrition and, in some cases, layoffs – since last school year.
“I’m hoping the Legislature will see there’s hard data showing that, yes, districts are making some good decisions in terms of efficiencies,” said Bob Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, a Houston-based nonprofit that analyzed the state figures. “But the Legislature should be very worried that in the haste to be more efficient we are cutting our future out from under us.”
In the greater Houston area, districts reduced their workforce by 5 percent – with 7,655 fewer employees overall, including nearly 3,300 fewer teachers.
With not as many teachers, schools either eliminated courses – such as choir or journalism – or requested waivers to exceed the 22-student cap on elementary classes.
Sue Deigaard, the mother of two students in the Houston Independent School District, said her second-grader’s class hit 24 students this year, and her fifth-grader’s has 29 or 30. She said the school, Twain Elementary, didn’t lose a fifth-grade teacher this year but might have been able to hire another one with more funding.
“My older daughter will tell you, ‘We don’t fit in that room,’ ” said Deigaard, who testified before the Legislature last spring about supporting public education.
HISD, the state’s largest district, cut 2,141 positions, including 891 teachers, according to the data obtained by Children at Risk.
Teachers hit hardest
Texas lawmakers, agreeing with Gov. Rick Perry’s no-tax-hike pledge to balance the budget, cut per-student funding to public education by $5.4 billion over the biennium, which includes the current school year and next year.
“The cuts weren’t as bad as they could have been,” said Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who chairs the House Education Committee.
One House proposal would have reduced school funding by $10 billion, costing an estimated 100,000 jobs.
Teachers made up the largest number of staffing cuts statewide, followed by auxiliary staff, which includes bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers.
Principals, central office staff and other administrators weren’t hit as hard.
Districts cut 10,718 teaching jobs and 545 administrative jobs this school year, according to the state data.
Nearly 7,000 auxiliary positions were cut, and districts eliminated about the same number of support staff such as teaching aides, librarians and counselors.
Sanborn, of Children at Risk, said districts have been reducing administrative staff over the last several years, making it harder to cut deeper this year.
Pain not spread evenly
In the Houston area, the impact of the budget cuts, coupled with changes in student enrollment, varied. For example, Tomball ISD gained 26 positions, growing 2 percent, while Spring ISD lost 587 jobs, or 12 percent of its workforce, according to the state data.
Generally, the districts that added positions were charter schools.
Richard Kouri, the executive director of the Texas State Teachers Association, said he worries about more job cuts next school year.
“Class sizes are getting bigger,” he said. “A lot of school districts are talking about eliminating programs. There isn’t anything that’s going to change that in 2012-13.”
Job cuts at schools
Houston ISD 891 2,141 9
Spring ISD 185 587 12
Fort Bend ISD 152 540 6
Aldine ISD 181 463 6
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD 227 370 3
Spring Branch ISD 119 341 7
Katy ISD 9 341 4
Humble ISD 171 287 6
Alief ISD 70 251 4
Conroe ISD 39 232 4
Klein ISD 78 204 4
Brazosport ISD 65 173 10
Santa Fe ISD 23 150 25
Pasadena ISD 124 139 2
Clear Creek ISD 178 134 3
Goose Creek ISD 120 130 4
Totals positions lost
Total percentage of workforce lost