San Antonio schools are cutting staff and programs to cope with budget problems

Across Texas, school districts are being forced to explore difficult cost-cutting or revenue-raising strategies due to stagnant state funding after Texas lawmakers failed to pass a comprehensive bill to fund public education.

Nearly a year after implementing the highest salary for beginning teachers in Bexar County, administrators at Judson Independent School District (ISD), which is struggling with a substantial projected $32 million deficit, recently discussed the possibility of asking voters to pass a property tax bill. having to ask. increase.

Superintendent Milton Fields cited the need for a quick decision on the matter, but the board remains uncertain.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, districts in the San Antonio region are preparing budgets with high deficits as they try to balance the need for cost savings with the need to address staffing shortages and comply with new state mandates.

Districts like Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD have seen a significant increase in operating costs. For example, the cost of substitute teachers has increased by almost 260% since 2019.

Even districts that close schools to cut costs continue to face significant shortfalls. Edgewood ISD recently closed two campuses and is undergoing a district-wide redesign to address its $7 million deficit over the next two years.

Superintendent Eduardo Hernandez pointed out that the state has not increased the basic allocation – the per-student funding mechanism – since 2019, exacerbating financial problems. “We are just like any other company,” he said, emphasizing the need to cover basic expenses such as fuel, insurance and utilities.

Of the 337 school districts recently surveyed by the Texas Association of School Business Officials, 80% say a lack of resources is a major challenge and more than half expect to end the year with a deficit.

San Antonio ISD, the third largest district in Bexar County, plans to eliminate more than 200 staff positions previously funded by federal pandemic relief funds that expire in September. These cuts include positions critical to supporting high school students, special education, and family engagement.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, even districts with growing enrollments, like Southwest ISD, are also feeling the financial pinch. Southwest ISD expects a deficit of $10 million to $12 million next year, even before potential salary increases are taken into account.

North East ISD Superintendent Sean Maika told the San Antonio Express-News he remains hopeful for legislative action but is cautious about relying on it. Three decades in public education have taught him that the financial situation is “never as bad as we think, but never as promising as we hope.”

“What I’ve always appreciated about education is that we’ve faced seemingly insurmountable odds, and we’ve always found a way to rise above them and become better,” he said. “And I believe we will do it again.”