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April 18, 2011

Aledo ISD fights for funding

ALEDO — Sally Sexton

ssexton@weatherforddemocrat.com

Like so many other administrators in the state, Aledo’s superintendent is fighting for education.

The district, which has already make adjustments the last few years to cope with limited financing, is looking at cutting even more, dependent on what the Texas legislature decides.

“Last year, we had to have a reduction of 37 positions, and the staff all took a 5 percent pay cut, which was put back after the tax ratification election,” Daniel said. “This year, we have asked every department to look at their budget and submit one with a 5 and 10 percent reduction.”

Aledo currently has a budget of $34 million out of local revenue, and overall, including federal money, $41 million, 80 percent of which is used for staff salaries.

The district has found alternative solutions to cutting staff, including absorbing a number of positions through retirement, reassignments and attrition.

“Some of our other positions are expanding classes and shuffling teachers, and we will continue to do that and downsize in that manner,” Daniel said.

On the heels of talks with the Senate and House of Representatives, Aledo ISD has been working on a budget based on estimates of what the education cuts could be.

“We’re working on the budget as we go,” Daniel said. “In all honesty, we are putting the future of our children and our state in jeopardy when talking about a 14 percent cut in funding for public schools.

“[Education] is the backbone of our democracy. It’s how we create the educated voter and the educated workforce.”

Like many other administrators, Daniel is set on informing the public on how the school financial system works, adding that it can be extremely complicated.

“I don’t think [the public] understands public school funding,” Daniel said. “Everyone thinks there is one student for every teacher, but it’s not just teachers, it’s librarians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and maintenance.

“One of the messages we kept spreading was that it takes an entire staff to make things work. You can’t run a hospital with just doctors.”

Daniel praised his staff for their focus the last few years, especially during tough financial times.

“Last year, during all of the pay cuts, our staff never lost focus on their students,” he said. “Every campus was exemplary or recognized at a time when people were taking pay cuts and losing jobs. That, to me, is dedication.

“We’re all here as a group to help children learn and to make education a priority.”

The board hopes to have a rough draft of a proposed budget by mid-June but, depending on how long the legislative session lasts, could take longer.

“Now there’s talk of having a special session and until you see the amendments, rules and procedures that come out of that, we won’t know what our funding will be,” Daniel said. “It delays our budgeting processes and planning processes, but it’s become the new norm to never know what they’re going to do.”

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