Local ISD Announces Staff Cuts Amid Budget Woes

Keller ISD school bus
Keller ISD school bus | Image by Keller Independent School District/Facebook

Faced with a $28 million budget shortfall, one North Texas school board announced staff cuts at a recent meeting.

Keller Independent School District is facing considerable budgetary issues, citing new state regulations on campus security, lackluster state funding, inflation, and more. For three years now, the district has had a deficit budget, spending more than it receives.

The Keller ISD school board recently discussed the need to make some serious moves to balance the budget in time for the 2024-2025 school year. Department budgets will be zero-based, “on-ramp classes” will be eliminated, librarians and other specialized faculty will be shared between campuses, and the summer school program will be reformed. Yet the most significant move will be to make staff cuts, which will be announced later this month.

“The reality is, there might be some people that have to think about what their job looks like differently, and it not being in Keller ISD. Because $28 million — you can’t find that money in papers and paper clips and toner, you find it in people, because 86% of our budget is people,” said Keller ISD Superintendent Tracy Johnson, according to The Texan.

While Keller ISD’s faculty has grown by just 10.7% between 2017 and 2023, its non-instructional staff has expanded by 46.4%.

Yet Johnson was adamant that the state was partly to blame for the district’s budget issues by continuously making demands yet “never fully support[ing the changes] in perpetuity.”

For instance, last year, Texas lawmakers passed a new law requiring each public school in the state to have an armed security guard stationed on campus unless a valid “good cause exemption” can be presented, as covered by The Dallas Express. The state has offered the Safety and Facilities Enhancement Grant to help districts cover these costs.

Johnson also bemoaned how public school funding got caught up in the “school choice” debate among state lawmakers. As previously covered in The Dallas Express, the impasse over universal taxpayer-funded vouchers delayed any legislative effort to increase school funding — which has remained at a base amount of $6,160 per student since the 2018-2019 school year — until the next legislative session.

“246 days?” Johnson exclaimed during the meeting. “And [the Texas Legislature] passed 10% of what was put before them that was related to public education. Unprecedented budget surplus, largest in one year, over $40 billion. The more I think about it, the madder I get because the cavalry is not coming.”

Keller ISD isn’t the only North Texas school district facing deficits in its budget, with Richardson ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Plano ISD, and more looking to balance their books through various cost-saving measures ranging from attendance zone expansions to school closures.

Despite Keller ISD’s budget issues, the district actually spent just around $12,770 per student — a total of 34,336 enrollees — in 2021-2022, as previously covered in The Dallas Express. This is considerably less than the $15,188 per student allocated by Dallas ISD’s board of trustees in a $2.225 billion budget that same school year.

Yet Dallas ISD students — a total of 143,430 enrollees — performed demonstrably worse academically that same term. According to the latest accountability report from the Texas Education Agency, only 41% of students scored at grade level on the STAAR exam that term and almost 20% of the district’s Class of 2022 did not graduate within four years. Meanwhile, Keller ISD saw 60% of its students score at grade level and clocked an on-time graduation rate of 93.4%.

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