Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hutto Hippos close school

It is sorta fun seeing your daughter's photo in the NY Times - and she didn't even have to rob a bank or shoot a terrorist to get in.

Laura teaches elem music in the Hutto schools @ Veterans Hill Elem. She loves the school and the principal. Hutto is closing the school for money reasons. Frankly, they overbuilt schools before the people moved to town. It is not "build it and they will come." When the housing boom went boom, the school was already open. Now, Hutto, with a new Superintendent on board, is closing the school because of the lack of students.

The article below was in the NY Times today. The 2nd photo is my daughter teaching one of her music classes. She is worried about the future. Anyway, I have never been in the NY Times. Maybe it is just as well if it takes a situation in order to get in.

This is close to our home & world. Thought the article was interesting.


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Aid Cuts Have Texas Schools Scrambling
Published: February 14, 2011

HUTTO, Tex. — The school superintendent in this rural town outside the state capital has taken steps to trademark the district’s oddly un-Texan school mascot — the Hutto Hippo — in a frantic effort to raise cash. He is also planning to put advertisements on school buses and to let retailers have space on the school Web site.
Enlarge This Image Erich Schlegel for The New York Times
Case Sherva, a fifth grader, helped a teacher, Paul Suddeth, lower the Texas state flag after school at Veterans’ Hill Elementary School in Hutto, Tex. State budget cuts are forcing the district to close the three-year-old school.
Enlarge This Image

Erich Schlegel for The New York Times
Veterans’ Hill Elementary in Hutto, Tex., is being closed to save money.
“I’m doing some weird stuff in the district because we are low on money,” said the superintendent, Douglas Killian, sitting in an office full of Hippo figurines.
He added, “We hope to make our hippo as recognizable as Mickey Mouse.” (The mascot was adopted shortly after a hippopotamus escaped from a circus train in 1915 and took up temporary residence in a local creek.)
But the money expected from the sale of “Hustling Hippos” merchandise would be peanuts compared with the hole expected to open up in the district’s budget, as the Legislature moves to slash about $4.8 billion in state aid to schools over two years to close a budget gap.
So Mr. Killian and the beleaguered school board have agreed to shut down a recently built grade school and to cut a 10th of the staff, among them a principal, 2 assistant principals, 4 librarians and 38 teachers. That round of staff cuts is a just first step, he says, and layoffs will follow if the budget bills proposed in the Legislature are enacted without changes.
All across Texas, school superintendents are bracing for the largest cuts to public education since World War II, and the state is not alone. Schools across the country are in trouble as billions in emergency stimulus grants from the federal government have run out, and state and federal lawmakers have interpreted the victory of fiscal hawks in November’s midterm elections to mean that tax increases are out of the question.
Nowhere has that political trend been more potent than in Texas, where Republicans who ran on a promise to never raise taxes not only retained every statewide office, but also added to their majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Gov. Rick Perry, easily re-elected in November, made it clear in his annual speech to lawmakers last week that he regarded raising revenue for schools as out of the question, saying Texas families “sent a pretty clear message with their November votes.” He has also refused to consider using $9.4 billion in a reserve fund to bail out the schools.
“They want government to be even leaner and more efficient,” Mr. Perry said, “and they want us to balance the budget without raising taxes on families and employers.”
To balance the budget with cuts alone, the governor and Republican leaders in the Legislature have put forth bills that would reduce the state’s public school budget by at least 13 percent — nearly $3.5 billion a year — and would provide no new money to schools for about 85,000 new students that arrive in Texas every year. School administrators predict that as many as 100,000 school employees would have to be laid off to absorb the cuts.
Not only are the proposed cuts to school aid draconian, but in addition the Legislature in 2006 put strict limits on how much districts can raise local property taxes. That means local school boards find themselves trapped amid rising enrollment, double-digit drops in state aid and frozen local taxes.
Many school administrators attribute the current budget crisis to an overhaul of the school finance system five years ago, which Mr. Perry and Republican leaders pushed through in response to popular anger over high property taxes. The Legislature put a cap on property taxes for schools and promised to make up the difference with a new business tax. But that tax has never produced enough revenue to make the districts’ budgets whole.
The chronic shortfall in money for schools was papered over in the last two-year budget passed in 2009. Mr. Perry and Republican leaders in the Legislature used about $3.3 billion in federal aid under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to plug the hole. That aid has disappeared this year.
“We had a problem before the shortfall ever occurred,” said John M. Folks, the superintendent of Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. “Now we have put this shortfall on top of an already horrible funding situation.”
Mr. Folks said the proposed budget bills would require him to cut about a sixth of his budget, and he sees see no way to avoid laying off teachers and letting classes become larger.

A version of this article appeared in print on February 15, 2011, on page A16 of the New York edition.

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