August 20, 2011

#RickPerry'sTexasMiracle part 3: new schools, no teachers

Yep, you read that right. In Leander, an exurb of Austin, two brand new schools sit vacant because the district doesn't have the money for teachers for them.

And why is that?

Because of Texas' draconian budget cuts, abetted and augmented by Gov. Tricky Ricky Perry's failed business franchise tax that his fellow GOP yahoos in the Legislature again refused (not just failed but refused) to fix this year. It all seems deliberate, not just in the name of austerity, but to starve one of the few institutions that may still harbor enemies of Perry and other GOP wingnuts.
In Leander, about 27 miles north of Austin, one of the most visible signs of the cuts will be two new schools — a middle school and an elementary — sitting vacant.

“We've got these big beautiful buildings ready to open but we can't afford the teachers to put in them,” said district spokeswoman Veronica V. Sopher, who adds that the buildings were built with bonds approved by voters.
That's the stupidest, but there's plenty more.
Lamar High School Principal James McSwain said his school has eliminated about 29 positions — from clerical to teaching staff. Class sizes for core subjects such as math and English will increase by about 10 students, to about 38 per class. In computer and art, class sizes will surpass 40 students.
Yeah, try teaching a computer class with 40 students in it.

Here's another goodie:
In Keller, about 20 miles north of Fort Worth, students paying to ride the bus will save the district $2 million a year. A district official says they had warned residents of a “pay-to-ride” system if voters in June didn't approve an increase in property taxes to help make up for some of the state cuts to the 32,000-student district.

“We've had over 3,000 phone calls. Many were upset and justifiably so,” said Mark Youngs, Keller's deputy superintendent of finance. “Folks don't pay attention until it touches their front door.”
The story notes that many parents without kids may have led opposition. The fraying of social bonds ... another accidental, or perhaps Social Darwinist-deliberate, effect of the budget cuts.

And, yes, I don't have a problem calling it Social Darwinism. The conservative Christian success gospel, which, sadly, is entrapping too many minorities, too, is Social Darwinism in a garish Christian drag costume.

Anyway, how bad is it? The cuts are even, indirectly, affecting FOOTBALL in places:
Carrollton-Farmers Branch District spokeswoman Angela Shelley says that the cut for this upcoming school year that most people are talking about is one that saves $50,000 in transportation costs: The district's bands will no longer travel to away football games.
But wait. It gets worse next year.
This school year, districts will see a cut of about 6 percent across-the-board. Next school year, there will be a $2 billion reduction that cuts funding for some schools more than others.

Next year may be even harsher for many schools because the cuts were softened a bit by a one-time payout of $830 million in public education funds this spring. School finance expert Lynn Moak of Moak, Casey & Associates said those federal funds helped offset this year's cuts by about a third.
And, let's not forget those cuts are happening to the fastest-growing set of public schools in the nation.

Factor in student population growth, as in the Leander vacant school buildings, and per-pupil cuts are more like 10 percent.

Everybody knows yet another school districts' lawsuit against the state is needed. The problem is (and perhaps that was a deliberate intent of those GOP yahoos), not many districts have the money for that now.

Let's not wait, Texas ISDs. Let's start suing, and start puncturing Rick Perry's national stage balloon more.

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