Keller ISD outlines possible staff cuts, increased class sizes as budget shortfall looms
Keller ISD is eyeing cuts to staff and programming next year in an effort to fill a projected $27 million budget deficit unless the state provides more funding.
At a community meeting this week, interim Superintendent John Allison outlined options to manage the shortfall. They include increased efficiencies in everything from power use and transportation to insurance costs and software.
“Do we have redundant software that we don’t need to purchase?” he asked the roughly 100 people in the audience. He said class sizes might also increase, as fewer teachers may need to instruct more students.
“These are areas that can help us find larger dollar amounts if the state doesn’t come through in providing us any additional funding,” said Allison. “We have got to focus on what we value most about providing the quality education in Keller and what are the foundational elements to what we value most.”
District leadership has been open about a pending $27 million shortfall for weeks now.
Allison blamed some losses on reduced state education funding, including under- and unfunded mandates — like House Bill 3, the law requiring armed security on every campus — growing special education costs, falling enrollment and more.
Allison said costs have continued to grow and not just from inflation.
He explained how every Texas school district budget is based on average daily attendance, a calculation used by only six states. He said Keller ISD must budget for 100% attendance every day, knowing some students will be absent throughout the year. After the year ends, Texas reduces what districts get based on student attendance after absences.
“So you hear that, ‘Well, we’re funding at $6,160,’” Allison said, citing how much the state says it funds every Texas child. “You’re not funding anyone at $6,160. Because there’s not a district in the state of Texas or anyplace in the country that’s going to have 100% attendance, every student, every day for an entire school year. It just won’t happen.”
Allison reiterated the district’s call for community members to contact the legislators who represent the school district.
Lawmakers have so far not passed any education budget in the fourth special session because Gov. Greg Abbott insisted it include Education Savings Accounts, a voucher-like element he's made a priority. House members last month once again rejected a proposal to create an ESA program.
After Allison’s presentation, 8th grade math teacher Chase Adams said he hadn't realized how state policies affected the district’s budget.
"This is my first year, so I wasn't aware of how school funding works or what the situation is,” Adams said. “That's why I came here this evening, and it's a lot worse than I really anticipated.”
Parent Kelly Theriault has two children in Keller high schools.
“I find it actually astounding that the schools are having such a shortfall while the state has this incredible surplus in their budget,” said Theriault. “There's, to me, no reason that the state cannot take a number of billions of dollars and hand them over to the schools.”
Allison said board members had reached out to lawmakers hoping those legislators might be persuaded to rethink how they’re funding education.
“It didn’t work,” Allison said. “And right now, it's crickets."