Superintendent: No truth to mass layoff rumor

Special to the PRESS

The Point Isabel Independent School District, along with the other 1,264 districts across the state, has experienced significant budget cuts this year. “We’re operating in the neighborhood of half a million dollars less than before,” said PIISD Superintendent of Schools Lisa Garcia.

Lawmakers in the State of Texas cut state-wide public education funding by $5.4 billion in an effort to balance the state’s two-year budget. With any significant cutback comes significant change, but at least at this time, such adjustments will not mean cutting back on educators in Port Isabel.

Recently, Garcia dispelled concerns from the community that the district planned to cut up to 85 teaching positions. “That is not true at all,” the superintendent said.

The district employs 169 total teachers. Such a cut would literally mean a loss of half of its educators. Garcia said, “We were forced to make budget cuts by the state, but we have not cut [even] one teaching position. All the budget cuts we have made to date have been non-instructional and do not affect the classroom or teachers.”

To suffice with a slimmer budget, the district slashed expenses across the board. “We cut 10 percent off of the top of every area of the budget that didn’t have anything to do with teaching,” said Garcia.

“We have expanded classrooms, but they are not larger than they were last year,” the superintendent said. Garcia further explained the district has six classrooms – in kindergarten, first and second grades – that are one student over the 22-1 student-to-teacher ratio. This is due to insufficient funds to hire additional teachers, according to Garcia.

Not everyone agrees with the $5.4 billion cutbacks, though in an interview with The Dallas Morning News in February, Governor Rick Perry said he saw no need to fortify educational funding. Rather, Perry said, “How that money’s spent is the bigger issue.”

Though no after school programs were cut, areas at a loss include the following: the district’s central office; allocations of funds for supplies and materials which are not for instructional purposes; energy expenses; transportation costs; field trips; and all extra-curricular activities.

Furthermore, the district has lost professionals through attrition who Garcia said will not be replaced. One example is an open administrative position with the district’s central office.

A loss of $500,000 in a small school system is quite the economic blow, but Garcia remains optimistic that her district and the children it serves will not suffer. She said, “Even in a very tight budget year, the district was prepared. The board of trustees for this district is fiscally responsible.”

Read this story in the Nov. 8 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.

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