AISD to Balance Budget through Attrition

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Amarillo public schools are facing a budget shortfall heading into the next fiscal year.

School Board President Jim Austin said AISD will be forced to modify a large portion of its budget following a decrease in enrollment.

Austin said there are about 500 fewer students in total, which will lead to a reduction of about $3.3 million in state funding for attendance.

“So there’s no risk of anybody losing their job,” Austin said. “We’re just not gonna hire as many people to deal with the attrition that we have every year.”

The budget shortfall will force the school district to keep a smaller staff next school year.

“Rather than hiring 200 people this year, we’ll hire 175,” said Austin. “That’s how we’re gonna deal with it.”

Austin said the school district is evaluating possible causes for the drop in enrollment, but the reasons for the decrease are unclear at this time.

Amarillo public schools have an average ratio of one teacher per 20 students, which could change with a smaller teaching staff.

“Classroom size does matter and less learning can occur when you have bigger classes,” Aaron Phillips, AISD Teacher and President of Amarillo Education Association, said. “The district’s at almost 70% on free and reduced lunch and I don’t think it meets the needs of a community dealing with poverty to cut back the staff that is helping the students.”

Phillips said the teachers’ union is also pushing for necessary raises for teachers, administrators, support staff and hourly workers. 

“That can draw their attention away from the classroom if they’re having to seek a second or third income, and that’s not good for our students,” Phillips said.

However, Austin said since payroll represents 85% of the budget, hiring fewer staff members is the best way to balance the budget.

“What we need to do is make sure this is a district of choice and it’s a good place to come for a good education,” said Austin.

Austin said the school board has met several times to discuss the shortfall and has asked staff to look for potential spots in the budget where they could cut expenses.

The board will hear those recommendations at their next meeting in May.

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