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Small School Districts Fight For "Equity" In State Budget Cuts

April 11, 2011

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As students walk through the halls in schools across the state, they're focused on the final weeks of school, prom, sports, or the other issues that come as a school year heads into its home stretch. In administration offices in places like Axtell and Valley Mills, they're focused on next year. More specifically, next year's budget. And they're doing so with a lot of questions.

The first voice was that of Stanley Harris, superintendent of Axtell ISD, followed by Larry Robinson, his counterpart at Valley Mills. They've spent hours in their offices and in the statehouse in Austin, trying to figure out how much the state budget cuts will impact their schools. Numbers vary in the billions; bills differ in the Texas House and Senate, and districts trying to prepare various budgets for differing scenarios. Whatever the number, Stanley Harris of Axtell is preparing for it to be painful.

Educators are protesting the cuts across the state, but smaller districts are protesting more than just the cuts. They worry that across-the-board cuts will have a greater impact on them. Their districts are "property poor," meaning they don't receive the property tax income that do larger and richer districts.

Patrick Flavin is a professor of political science at Baylor. Dr. Flavin explains just one of the many sub-debates that rages in the overall debate on education spending, one that Harris and Robinson hope to see be more equitable to small districts.

So Stanley Harris spends his days planning various budgets featuring best case and worst case scenarios for Axtell, knowing that if the cuts are severe, the pain won't be felt for a couple of years. In the meantime, he fights for that redistribution that Dr. Flavin spoke of, surrounded by others from small districts statewide. We'll continue to look at this issue tomorrow, as Harris and Robinson talk about how they plan for a situation such as this. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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