SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) — Teachers’ advocates are at the Capitol for the beginning of the new legislative session, and they’re reminding lawmakers about their campaign promises about school funding. It’s a big priority, especially in Fort Bend County, where midterm voters rejected a ballot measure that would’ve helped the school district balance the budget.
Fort Bend Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Christie Whitbeck said they are hopeful, but not counting on politicians for a bailout. That’s despite a record-breaking $33 billion surplus.
“We want to partner with our elected officials. We want to partner with our community. I’m still optimistic,” Whitbeck said.
It will take more than optimism to fix the $47 million deficit in Fort Bend ISD’s budget. In November’s midterm, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have helped avoid deep cuts, increase campus security, and increase pay for teachers and staff.
“That makes me sad,” she said. “Because I wanted that for my bus drivers, custodians, and teachers, but we tried.”
The issue isn’t isolated to Fort Bend. The Texas State Teacher’s Association President Ovidia Molina says getting legislators to fully fund public schools across the state is their top priority.
“We don’t want the legislators to just say they support us, our students, and our educators. We want them to actually do it. Let us see you support public schools,” Molina said.
More money in the budget would also pave the way for more of their priorities, like teacher recruitment and retention. Some conservatives, however, said the real problem is a mismanagement of the money districts do have. Whitbeck admitted there are areas of redundancy and excess spending, which complicates their request for funding.
“We’re not counting on the legislature. That’s why we are going through these painstaking processes to cut and really examine how we can be more efficient,” Whitbeck said.
FBISD has two years to cut $47 million. They created a committee to work with executive leadership to find ways to save. Whitbeck said everything is on the table, but the goal is to avoid cuts to educational and extracurricular activities.
“If it’s not benefiting kids, and maybe we can do things in another way, that’s the way we can go about it,” she said.
The proposal raises for staff and security measures in Fort Bend are delayed and are now dependent on legislators in Austin.
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