Robin Hood Schools Getting Hit Twice as Hard by Budget Cuts

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

CRANE-- Like the bigger districts, smaller schools in the area, like Crane, stand to lose a lot too.

"Two of those scenarios show our particular school district losing a little over $5 million, over the next 2 years. $5 million is well over a third of our budget," Crane I.S.D. Superintendent, Larry Lee, said.

Superintendents from across Texas descended on the state capitol last week for the yearly, mid-winter conference.

According to Lee, "There wasn't a lot of good news. I think there's a lot of people that think the situation is going to be better than what they originally rolled out. I think some of that may have been for shock value, the state being $27 billion in deficit, they may have been setting the stage for things to come."

Crane is one of the many richer school districts, known as Chapter 41 Districts, in West Texas. And just like Robin Hood, the state is taking from the rich and giving it to the poor.

"Oil and gas, in our particular county, is what makes us Chapter 41," Lee explained.

Lee says the finance game has winners and losers. Now, not only will these Robin Hood districts lose state funding, they'll have to share a lot more of the wealth. It's the state's way of leveling the playing field, by bringing the lower revenue schools up and for the first time, taking the higher ones down.

"Some of the formulas are wealth based and that would be the reason why Crane would be hit harder, percentage wise, than other school districts would be," Lee said.

The reality from Austin is basically this: school districts won't be getting any money from the state for the next two years. That puts the burden on them to decide what they can do without to get by. The answer is anything but a slam dunk.

Some of the flexibility options include, reducing the student-teacher ratio or have staff take ten day furloughs, during the year, saving thousands of dollars in salaries.

As an educator, Lee is concerned about both, "Our major concern is making sure we can provide a quality education for our kids and get them to reach those high standards that are expected, and doing that with less staff is a very concerning proposition, not only to Crane ISD but across the State of Texas."

The final numbers from Austin won't be released until June or July, making future decision making difficult for school administrators. Lee says he would like the state legislature to stand up and make education a state priority in a system that he says is broken.

"We're all concerned with our kid's education. That's the future of our country, so we need to fund it and fund it adequately," he said.