AUSTIN — The Austin Independent School District is considering closing up to a dozen campuses to make up for a budget deficit.
That is just one of 91 different ideas on how to make up for a $55 to $60 million budget shortfall. Other options include cutting 150 to 200 jobs and increasing high school class size.
The budget crisis comes at the same time the district's recapture payment, or the money it sends to the state that goes to other schools, is increasing. This year, AISD's payment is nearly $670 million, a $123 million increase from last year.
The district is also losing students as more families move out of the district. The current enrollment is approximately 80,000. District leaders said they lost roughly 1,600 students in 2017.
State funding has also shrunk.
AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz knows these cuts are painful, but said parents and teachers need to focus on the big picture for the entire district.
"We're focused on three specific priorities. One is about making sure all of our schools are moving to an exemplary level, higher level of performance. A second one is we have all students read on grade level by third grade and a third one is about paying teachers more," said Cruz.
But former school board trustee, Paul Saldana, said the district is making up this emergency because these issues have been around for years. They just haven't taken any action until now.
"It's a manufactured crisis and what I mean by that is the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. This is not surprising at all. From the perspective of what's going on with recapture funding," said Saldana.
He also questioned why there are so many non instructional employees getting paid six figures.
"You have over 100 plus employees a lot in the administration non instructional positions not on campus that are drawing $100,000 plus salaries every year," said Saldana.
District leaders plan to identify the 12 schools by the end of the year. Nothing is final until the budget is approved in June.