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Dallas School Board Approves Teacher Layoffs

By Bill Zeeble, KERA Reporter

Dallas, TX – By a 5 to 2 vote, with one abstention, the Dallas school board has approved layoffs that could total more than 1,000 staff and teachers. The move was prompted by an $84 million deficit found last month. 90.1's Bill Zeeble covers the budget meeting.

Trustees put off this vote last week when they demanded more savings by cutting outside contracts, consultants and central staffers - anything but teachers. In a calmly tense and packed meeting lasting more than three hours, they initially received some good news. Superintendent Hinojosa lowered the number of teachers slated for layoffs by 125. Earlier this week, 63 central staff workers had already been let go.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa: A lot of good people have been affected. This task is difficult, but we have to be fiscally responsible.

Trustee Lew Blackburn said despite the central staff cuts, more could and should go.

Lew Blackburn: I don't think you've done enough at the central office, though. I don't think you've done enough.

Board member Ron Price asked administrators to cancel more outside contracts to save teachers. He got no answers. When it was time for a vote, Blackburn and trustee Carla Ranger rejected a reduction in force. Price wanted more options to cut the budget and abstained. But 5 trustees OK'd the superintendent's proposed reductions in force. For several weeks now, Board President Jack Lowe said RIFs and other cuts were the only way to rebalance a budget in the red.

Jack Lowe, DISD Board President: This is an important step but not the end. It's just part of the process of re-examining what we need to do. I'm supportive of good, clear reporting on how it's going.

And trustees will continue to meet, to correct the financial problems. Hinojosa says the deficit could even shrink, thanks in part to a growing student population that pumps more money into the district. Teachers and others handed pink slips will have three days to accept a buyout, or dispute the decision. The superintendent says those named will find out October 9 or October 10 and expects a response before the October 17. He adds that he's cooperating with union leaders to make sure all rules are followed.