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Classes Resume Monday With Tighter Budgets

Budget cuts could lead to larger classes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A smaller budget may mean bigger class sizes for the Fort Worth Independent School District. (Published Monday, Aug 22, 2011)

    Summer vacation is over for millions of children in Texas, and classes resumed Monday at public schools as districts deal with tighter budgets.

    Teachers in the Fort Worth Independent School District say they are worried about how to educate students with resources slashed by the state.

    Smaller Budget May Mean Bigger Classes

    [DFW] Smaller Budget May Mean Bigger Classes
    A smaller budget may mean bigger class sizes for the Fort Worth Independent School District. (Published Monday, Aug 22, 2011)

    The 2011 Texas Legislature, facing a $27 billion budget shortfall, cut $4 billion over the next two years in funding for school districts.

    "The biggest fear is the increasing class size," said Dave Robinson, of the Fort Worth Education Association.

    FWISD said it has about the same number of teachers as last school year after attrition, early retirement incentives and hiring.

    The size of its student population won't be known for several weeks, but Robinson said he expects the district has more students than last year.

    "There's been no discussion at all of any kind of decrease in terms of student population, so I think we have to assume that the district is continuing to grow," he said.

    The state caps the student teacher ratio at 22:1 for grades kindergarten through fourth.

    But the Texas Education Agency anticipates some districts will apply for waivers based on financial emergencies starting the second week of September.

    "If they do have more elementary students than they have to teach them at 22-to-1, then they will ask the school board to apply for a waiver to increase it to 24-to-1, maybe 23:1," Robinson said.

    There is no cap in middle and high school. Robinson said classes with 40 students are not out of the question.

    "I think we can expect to see expanding elective classes in the school," he said.

    "I know they'll try and do their best to hold the academic classes [down], but I think those will increase as well," Robinson said.

    Rena Honea, president of the Dallas teachers' union said larger classes sizes are a concern for teachers in the Dallas school district as well.

    In the Dallas Independent School District, the school board cut $76.9 million from their budget, bringing it down to $1.174 billion. As of Thursday, the district still needed to fill 285 teacher positions after more than 1,000 were laid off last spring due to budget concerns and the uncertainty of the budget going into the fall.

    The Houston Independent School District, the state's largest with about 204,000 students, saved money by eliminating 400 positions out of a teaching staff of about 13,000.

    The Texas Education Agency says the state has more than 1,200 districts, with about 4.8 million students enrolled last school year.