Naked City

AISD Bites the Budget Bullet

On Monday, the Austin ISD board of trustees, as expected, voted to approve Superintendent Pat Forgione's recommended budget cuts, including a financial emergency "reduction in force" -- the effective elimination of over 400 full-time campus-level positions. Combined with previously approved cuts in central administration, about 550 positions will be axed, including special-area teachers (art, music, and physical education), special-education staff, coaches, and custodians; the district will also eliminate the popular Account for Learning and Reading Recovery programs. These cuts will save $21.5 million; the rest of AISD's projected $51 million budget deficit will be paid out of AISD's fund balance.

Following Forgione's recommendations, the board rejected proposals, primarily from the faculty-staff organization Education Austin, to reduce personnel cuts by using more money from the fund balance. About half (266) of the employees affected by job cuts will be eligible for reassignment; district human-resources Director Michael Houser said that he expects many others will be eligible for teaching or other positions that become available before the start of the 2003-04 academic year.

Many district parents, especially from Eastside schools and Austin Interfaith, testified to the board on the importance of the Account for Learning and Reading Recovery programs, but those programs will be replaced by "reading specialists" assigned to campuses on the basis of need -- which the district says will save $6 million.

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