Thank you to Richard Whittaker for his saddening but informative April 15 article on the Austin ISD budget cuts and the lack of clear communication from the district regarding them [“Communication Breakdown
,” News]. Few in the local media have taken the time to investigate the way the district administration has chosen to manage this difficult period. Another aspect of these cuts that has been largely ignored is the coming reduction in district support staff, specifically, social service support. Along with the hundreds of teachers losing their jobs, a small army of social workers, parent support specialists, school to community liaisons, behavioral specialists, and others are being let go. The students and families who receive the services offered by these employees are often struggling with issues of homelessness, unemployment, mental or emotional health, language barriers, and personal crisis. While the loss of so many teachers will have undeniable effects upon the lives of all students, the children and parents who will no longer have access to mental health resources, housing referrals, Blue Santa, counseling, or support groups are the ones for whom I truly worry. Many of these families are already living on the edge of society. AISD schools may be the only place where some parents can access professionals of this sort. To take away more than half of these positions will have immediate and long-lasting negative consequences in the lives of children. This is a critical time for so many AISD families. Agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Communities in Schools, the Austin Child Guidance Center, and local Boys and Girls Clubs will no doubt experience the ripple effects of these cuts. I urge all who are angry over the budget cuts to use that energy toward positive ends; while we may not be able to step directly into a classroom, it is still possible to volunteer with one of the above organizations to make a difference in the life of an AISD student.