Anyone who may have thought we were nearing the end of school district cutbacks, think again. The Austin ISD, for one, already is moving forward with plans to deal with more budget reductions next year, and those plans include the possible closure of neighborhood schools.
An AISD task force recommended closing nine schools last spring, but that proposal sparked an uproar from parents and other members of the community and was shelved in favor of other budgetcutting steps. Now, school closures are being revived as an option as district officials prepare to wrestle with a projected loss of an additional $24.6 million in state funding in 201213 plus a loss of $13.8 million in federal education job stimulus funds.
AISD parents supposedly were notified of that possibility the other day in an email from Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. I say “supposedly” because the message was written in some of the worst bureaucratic gobbledygook that I have read in a long time. The use of such phrases as “Administrative Recommendation for a Facility Master Plan” and “longrange planning tool” and “Annual Facilities Recommendations” most likely moved the great majority of AISD parents directly to the “delete” button. And, that may have been by design.
Nowhere did the wordy message come to the point and acknowledge that school closures were once again under consideration.
School districts still are in a budgetary bind. And, as I have said repeatedly, that is primarily the fault of Gov. Rick Perry and the legislative majority, who slashed $5.4 billion from the state public education budget over the next two years while leaving $6.5 billion unspent in the Rainy Day Fund.
But many superintendents and school board members share part of the blame because, unlike TSTA and other teacher groups, they gave up on the legislative funding fight last spring way too early. Instead of demanding that their elected representatives tell the governor and the antigovernment tea party types to take a hike, they concentrated their lobbying on legislation to make it easier for school districts to dismiss teachers, cut their pay and otherwise transfer more of the cost of budgetary reductions to the classroom.
Carstarphen ends her mostly incomprehensible message by promising to “continue to keep everyone informed through future communications.”
AISD parents had better hire some interpreters.
Meanwhile, other districts also may start considering school closures for 201213.