While lawmakers in Washington, D.C., continue to haggle over plans to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” local lawmakers and school district officials are getting a view of what could be waiting for them at the bottom of that cliff. 

If Congress does not come up with a plan to raise revenue, cut expenses or do both to reduce the federal deficit, a series of tax increases and spending cuts will go into effect on Jan. 1. If the country does go over the so-called cliff, then the majority of Americans will likely see their taxes increase and budgets for both defense and domestic programs slashed. 

If that happens, federal education spending will be cut for the 2012-13 school and grant year by approximately $4.1 billion nationally, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Statewide, cuts to federal Title I and IDEA funds, which go to low-income students and special education students, could total $173.8 million, according to the state agency. 

In Galveston County, the total cut from budgets of the nine school districts and four charter schools could be as much as $2.5 million, according an analysis by the education department. 

The education agency has told schools to prepare and put money aside, said agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson. 

“Save some money and look at what you can do without,” Culbertson said, in describing the message the agency has been sending to school districts as they look toward the fiscal cliff. 

According to the agency’s study, Clear Creek school district, the county’s largest district with about 40,000 students, could lose almost $1.3 million. Dickinson school district could see a cut of about $417,880, and Galveston school district could lose out on about $98,000. Charter schools also would see cuts, with Odyssey Academy in Galveston possibly seeing a reduction in federal funds of almost $67,000, according to the education agency’s analysis. 

The cuts represent less than 1 percent of the yearly budgets for most school districts. 

But the cuts can still sting, said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for Clear Creek school district. 

The funds are allocated based on the number of students receiving special services and those who qualify under the federal guidelines as being at risk, Polsen said. 

A reduction in funding “could reduce the depth of intervention and support that the district has been able to previously provide to our students with greatest needs,” she said. 

These federal funds go toward things such as paying the salaries of academic coaches who work with students who are struggling academically, they cover the cost of federally required professional development for teachers and required services districts must provide for students with special needs, among other things, said Tammy Dowdy, spokeswoman for the Dickinson school district. 

“If the district were to lose some of this funding, the difference would have to be shifted to local funds and covered out of the district’s fund balance,” she said.  

While the fiscal cliff is an issue for politicians in Washington to solve, state lawmakers are also paying attention.

State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, is on a state committee formed specifically to seek solutions, should Congress let the country go over the cliff. 

The cuts to education funding are not going to make things easier for school districts that are already dealing with reduced state funding. “This is just an example of what could happen, and the state has to be prepared to respond where we can,” Eiland said in a news release. 

Many school districts did not know the extent of the cuts until the committee met last week, Eiland said on Monday. 

The committee will meet again in January to discuss how the state will deal with whatever cuts may be coming, he said.  

Republic Congressman-Elect Randy Weber, who will replace Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, as the representative for 14th Congressional District, said the overall effect of going over the fiscal cliff would be debilitating. 

“It’s time for Congress and the current administration to put the political football aside and get down to business,” he said. 

•••

At a glance

Galveston County’s nine school districts and four charter schools could see their Federal Title I and IDEA funding reduced by around $2.5 million if Congress does not deal with the looming “fiscal cliff,” according to an analysis by the Texas Education Agency. The cuts for each district or charter school are estimated by the education agency to be:

  • Ambassadors Preparatory Academy — $32,217
  • Clear Creek ISD — $1,260,130
  • Dickinson ISD — $417,880
  • Friendswood ISD — $141,061
  • Galveston ISD — $97,789
  • High Island ISD — $2,680
  • Hitchcock ISD — $126,895
  • La Marque ISD — $122,746
  • Mainland Preparatory Academy — $7,299
  • Odyssey Academy Inc. — $66,528
  • Premier Learning Academy — $8,734
  • Santa Fe ISD — $81,383
  • Texas City ISD — $144,068

Contact Reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com

(9) comments

Walter Manuel

“Save some money and look at what you can do without,” Culbertson said, in describing the message the agency has been sending to school districts as they look toward the fiscal cliff".

For starters the assistant superintendent needs to go and work down from there. This district does not need both an assistant superintendent and a superintendent for the number of students enrolled within the district.

Next look at the number of people working in the admin building including the 20 or so directors that some could be cut and their jobs consolidated. Nobody likes to see anyone lose their job, but the district saw this coming years ago and many of those sitting on the board today protested and refused to allow the board to address it so we're where we are today.

We'll see just how fiscally responsible these board members are come Thursday night.... their friends or teachers??

Robert Buckner

I really do not expect much change at LMISD unless the TEA forces it or some new blood is elected into office. The current school board and supt. haven't done anything for quite a while now. Why would anyone expect anything to change?

Island Bred

I expect to see a dramatic non informative executive session and then some nonsense BS public session.

I see lots of change commin to LMISD but I'm afraid the board just ain't gonna be feelin the bipartisian kinship - They are gonna spend like they are livin with Marie Antonette.

Angelica Rendon

I find it sad that our kids and teachers will be the ones to suffer. Today's schools are so different than what I remember from the 80's. My children don't even come home with school books, I assume because there isn't enough for each child to have one. They have to be shared amongst the classrooms which means I'm left to look online for ways to help my child with his lessons especially in math. I remember reading at the beginning of the school year that kids were even being asked to bring office supplies in addition to their own school supplies. We have a Texas lottery that was implemented to boost Texas Education funds. What the hell happened there?

Marine One

angel714 - as much as I hate to admit it, my son moved here from out-of-state and began Ball High. He hasn't brought home a book in 3 years. His excuse? Straight 3.5 GPA. Easy as pie.
Seems to me our schools are more interested in the graduation numbers than the actual "learning" numbers.
When I asked him a million times do you have homework? How was school today? The same answer each time - no homework. School was good. But I agree. I had nosebleeds as a kid just to get a C.

Gary Miller

Save some money and look at what you can do without
Isn't that wahat they should have been doing all along?
Instead of hiring staff they didn't need just to "spend the budget".
The truth is a crummy education that costs less is better than a crummy education that costs more.

Lars Faltskog

1960BOI -
Has your son considered signing up for one or more of those accelerated AP classes? They are supposed to be more challenging and the English classes even require outside reading, enrichment. I've also heard that they can take dual credit college while they take the high school class - and get both high school and college credit.

Marine One

Let's fall off this cliff. What difference does it make anyway? The country voted in the biggest welfare monster ever to walk the earth, and there's no way he'll cut one single food stamp to keep the taxpayer safe.

Gary Miller

The story could also have said local schools will cost taxpayers $2.5 million less.
A crummy education that costs less is always better than a crummy education that costs more.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.