By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
For the second day in a row, Killeen Independent School District Superintendent Robert Muller faced the tough task of explaining how state level funding shortfalls will affect the school district.
For the second day in a row, teachers and other staff members were given the sobering news; layoffs are coming and some programs will be reduced, if not ended outright.
The state is facing a $10 billion estimated deficit for education funding. In Killeen, KISD officials have estimated that should mean a $28 million reduction in the district's budget for next year.
In response, Muller and staff are preparing to eliminate 75 teaching positions from secondary education, 53 elementary school teachers and 48.5 positions at the central office. The elementary teaching jobs will be eliminated by not filling positions as they become open.
Muller said during a presentation Thursday evening at Ellison High School that teachers will receive notice by the end of March if they are to be laid off. Some teachers have already been notified, including two special education teachers who asked Muller directly if he could guarantee they would receive unemployment benefits if they choose to resign their positions, as they have been asked to do.
Muller said he would guarantee they receive unemployment, though one teacher, who wished not to be named, said an official at the Texas Workforce Commission had told her her claim would likely be rejected.
A contingent of staff from the program Communities in Schools addressed Muller. KISD is planning to eliminate all funding to the program, which aids at-risk students.
The organization's grant funding has decreased in recent years, according to one staff member. The organization could still exist without the funds, but by cutting $500,000 in funding from KISD, its budget would be cut by more than half.
"You're going to see an increase in disciplinary problems. You're going to see an increase in drop-outs. You're going to see an increase in truancy," Communities in Schools Site Director Debbie McKelvy said.
"This is a very painful process," he said.
Muller said many employee suggestions have been used as ways to streamline the budget. Those included making secondary teachers teach six out of seven class periods, as opposed to five of seven. The change leads to the elimination of 75 middle and high school teachers.
Also on the cutting block are district-purchased meals, teacher recruitment stipends and fees for outside professional development speakers.
The athletics department is facing a 14.99 percent budget cut. Teachers asked if cuts to athletics would be authorized disproportionately, setting aside "power sports," as one teacher put it.
Muller inferred she was referring to football. He said that all sports would be cut equally. Athletes will only receive free meals when they travel farther than 40 miles from the district for games, stadium staff is being reduced, cuts will be made to coaches' supplemental pay, and the equipment replacement plan will be revised.
Regardless of where cuts are made, Muller said KISD must adapt to new funding levels that could be permanent.
"If public education is going to survive this, we have to show that we can achieve great results for students with this level of funding," he said.
Muller will give his presentation again at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Harker Heights High School cafeteria and at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Killeen High School auditorium.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.