In The Classroom

Budget concerns take top priority as school bells ring

Monday, August 22, 2011

The first day of school is now in the history books for hundreds of thousands of Houston area students.

It's been a long day for students who had to wake up early, grab their books and bags, and get to school. It's been a difficult summer for teachers and administrators, who had to deal with big cuts to the education budget.

There were some tentative first steps Monday morning as kids made their way to class for the first time this school year. At Weber Elementary in the Clear Creek Independent School District, we asked parents about their concerns with this year's state budget cuts.

"Don't cut teachers, and try to keep the classroom quality at a high level," said parent Martha Hernandez.

Parent Phil Lopez said, "I think the last thing we want to cut is the educational system and it seems like that's where we're headed, so it's still a concern right now."

Clear Creek ISD saw more than $14 million cut this year in state funding, but because of a federal jobs grant did not have to lay off any teachers.

North in Conroe, at Ford Elementary, parents worry state cuts will mean changes, including larger class sizes.

Parent Anjuan Simmons said, "We know that Texas has done a great job with job creation but we don't want that to be done at the expense of education."

"We have not seen a change in class size for my daughter who's in fourth grade here at David Elementary," said parent Shauna Moonan. "We have seen it for my older daughter in sixth grade at Collins Intermediate."

As for Houston and HISD, the Lovett Elementary band hit all the high notes -- a triumph says HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier, despite a $79 million cut in state funding.

"You'll see class sizes up one student here, two students there, and our principals have had to make some tough decisions, but we are going to get through it," Dr. Grier explained.

Part of the solution for surviving tough budget cuts, says one parent, is creating an expanded role for the PTOs.

"It's taking a whole other shape than when I was in school, I'll tell you that," said parent Holly Harris. "We're doing a whole lot more community engagements than I guess I was really exposed to as a child."

PTOs are becoming more involved, raising money for important things in the schools such as helping to pay for mentorships and ancillary teachers to help with student tutoring.

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