Cuts coming to staff, budgets as state and federal dollars fall short

Staff cuts are coming to the Fort Worth Independent School District this week, a result of continued projections of declining enrollment and a loss of local, state and federal dollars, officials said on Monday.

Superintendent Angélica Ramsey announced in a statement that those impacted by the staff reductions would be notified no later than Friday. As the district has been among those nationwide that’s been hit the hardest by its loss of students, Ramsey cited the “legislative inaction on public school financing, the sunsetting of ESSER funds, fewer federal dollars, and a projected budget deficit” as factors that have made the decision to eliminate jobs necessary.

“It is crucial to remember that more than 80% of our budget is allocated to salaries. We are fundamentally a people-centered organization, and when we must address fiscal matters, it unfortunately affects our valued employees,” Ramsey said. “We understand the profound impact that these decisions have on each member of our team. It is with a heavy heart that we make these decisions, and we are doing so as early as possible to provide ample time for affected employees to explore alternative opportunities.”

The ESSER fund, or Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief fund, was approved by Congress in three iterations in 2020 and 2021 to help schools bring students back to campus safely and catch up on learning gaps brought about by remote learning. Fort Worth ISD programs such as the Saturday Learning Quest, which has provided extra instruction in reading and math, were created using ESSER funds and have been impacted by its incoming expiration. The last round of funding expires on Sept. 30 this year.

Moreover, tensions have risen between school leaders and lawmakers as the hopes that Texas’ $32.7 billion budget surplus would have helped districts keep up with inflation and provide teacher raises fell flat in the last year.

“Declining enrollment and the state’s inaction is making the district balance their budget on the backs of employees,” said Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association. “The governor and the Texas Legislature failed to provide districts with much-needed funding despite a record surplus. The district can control the declining student enrollment and must do better in attracting and retaining families and their students in their schools.”

Ramsey emphasized in her statement that the district is prioritizing student achievement and aiming to mitigate impacts to classrooms during this process.

“We remain committed to ensuring that resources are directed back to the classroom, equipping our teachers and students with the necessary tools for success,” she said.

Ramsey also noted that there will be positions available within the district, and vacancies are expected to come about in the spring through retirements and resignations for those who want to remain within the district.

The Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the matter at Tuesday’s special meeting at 5:30 p.m.

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