As you already know, in 2011 the Texas legislature cut public education financing by roughly $5.4 billion to balance the state’s two-year budget. The impact on the Fort Worth ISD – this year and next – is calculated to be $60 million.
Several months ago I made a commitment to you: that we would keep you well-informed as we worked together to minimize the effects of the state’s funding crisis on our work and on the lives of our students. I’m happy to report today that while we still have challenges ahead of us, we have made progress – significant progress – in that effort.
The bottom line is this: we will recommend that there be no teacher lay-offs this year in the Fort Worth ISD.
Even more importantly, we are well on our way to creating true equity in our system and strategically placing our resources where they can best support the quality of education in the Fort Worth ISD.
And, we’ve accomplished all this through the “singleness of purpose” of which I’ve spoken: focusing all of our work toward the goal of doing what’s best for our students.
By using a staffing formula and early notification incentives, we have achieved a hard-won balance of teachers and classroom assignments. Some personnel may be reassigned to other campuses. We’ve also saved an additional
$12.5 million through careful budgeting and your excellent stewardship. And, we’ve received an additional $4M through federal sources.
At the elementary level, we had 200 teachers take the early notification incentive. At the secondary level, we had 166 teachers opt for the early notification incentive. And, among other degreed, non-teaching professionals, 66 of your colleagues let us know their plans to retire or resign at the end of this school year. That knowledge provided us with the flexibility to save teacher jobs and reallocate teacher resources to support campuses where help is needed.
We will also increase our perseverance in squeezing every penny of taxpayer funds through monitoring energy usage, recycling and smart planning around how and when we use our facilities. I want to personally thank each and every
one of you for your vigilance in this area. Through your efforts we have saved $4 million in energy savings alone, as well as another $4M in shrewd budget planning. Add to that the $4M we have saved through what is virtually a hiring freeze and you see now how our work and our determination have closed the gap. Our fund balance was budgeted to be $85M; we can now report the fund balance will be closer to $100M.
But, the battle is not over.
We began working last year – before last year’s budget was adopted – to effectively manage the challenges we face because of the state funding crisis. We’re going to do that again this year. We will look at the 2013-14 budget before the ink is dry on this year’s plan. And, we will redouble our efforts to find ways great and small to save money while not stinting on what works for our students.
That will mean increased scrutiny of what we do, how we do it and the example we set for each other and for our students.
Just last week I told members of the District Employee Relations Council that we all must set an example of leadership by our determination to find more and more ways to contribute to the District. I told them about when I was
principal at O.D. Wyatt High School and would sometimes spend weekends mowing the lawn or edging the walkway. Or, how I would push a broom down the hall between classes – hopefully inspiring others to keep the corridors cleaner and certainly energizing students who may have been tempted to linger during passing period.
Before you get too excited, please understand I do not expect you all to drop everything and jump on a John Deere or pick up a hedge trimmer. But I share this story because I do hope you will continue to look for ways to show our
students that leadership means not being bound by a formal job description or waiting for someone else to perform a task when there is work to be done.
We’ve also held true to our promise to keep you informed of any and all developments about our financial situation. We’ve decided to maintain both the Make Education a Priority website and the “Ask Hank” feature, in which our Chief Financial Officer Hank Johnson answers your questions about ourresponse to this state funding crisis. We will also expand the “Ask Hank” to include other District leaders who can answer your questions.
Thank you for all you have done to help us move forward in this time of unparalleled financial challenge.
Walter D. Dansby
Fort Worth ISD Superintendent