Austin ISD Budget and School Finance Trial Taking Center Stage

AISD logo, Austin ISD (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a huge week for every student and teacher in Texas.

The state supreme court will start the process of trying to decide if enough money is spent on schools, and if each district is getting their fair share.

Talk about timely.

Monday night the Austin ISD school board will be voting on a $1 billion dollar budget.

The very next morning, opening arguments begin in the long awaited school finance trial.The two go hand in hand.

Austin is still reeling. We will never restore the cuts that were initially made in 2011 when we were cut $50 million,” said Nicole Conley, AISD’s chief financial officer.

The AISD chief financial officer — counting on the court to agree with a Travis county judge — who said the current school finance system isn’t cutting it.

“I think we’re lean as we can possibly be, but now we’re at a point where programming is at risk,” said Conley.

Despite $24 million in cuts for this new budget cycle, AISD is keeping most programs alive.

It is even making room for new ones including an early college high school program at Travis High School. The proposed budget also gives teachers a 3-percent pay raise, although Conley said it is still not up to par with salaries in other local districts.

Ashley Briones’ son is a third grader in AISD, and said his campus has had trouble filling positions.

“I want somebody who is highly qualified to teach my child,” said Briones.

Last year they lived in Ohio – where she believes teachers make more — and education is more of a state priority.

“It just seems as though the educational benefits and education in Texas in general just gets pushed to the wayside while everything else seems to be expanding,” said Briones.

The mom hopes changes do come from the school finance trial.

AISD is convinced the only way to get out of the hole and help students get ahead in the classroom — is a victory in the courtroom.

More than 600 school districts are represented in the school finance trial that starts Tuesday.

Breaking down “Recapture” a.k.a. “Robin Hood”

A big issue is the formula the state uses to distribute money to schools.

Districts say the 30-year-old system needs updating.

Austin ISD, which is considered property rich, will be handing over $272 million dollars to the state this next year.

It’s the most of any other district to help cover costs in property poor districts.

But AISD says it is money the district needs to stay local, and help their own economically disadvantaged students.

What would Austin ISD do with more money?

AISD’s chief financial officer said it could mean higher teacher pay, full day pre-k, and the ability to offer more courses students need to graduate.

That also includes non-traditional options like night classes and online courses.

 

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