CFISD board approves raises for teachers
Several teachers and residents leapt to their feet and applauded with gusto after the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District board of trustees approved the 2010-11 school year budget with a 5.5 percent pay raise for teachers and a 5 percent raise for all other employees.
Included in that budget were about $10 million in cutbacks needed to balance the budget.
The budget narrowly passed, 4-to-3, as board members Larry Youngblood, Ethel Wolfe and Bill Morris cast votes against it.
Morris and Youngblood said they could not vote for a budget that included the 5.5 percent and 5 percent pay raises when other vital areas were being cut, school openings were being delayed and the district was facing five years of possible deficit budgets.
Youngblood suggested an alternate budget with a 3 percent pay raise, but no action was taken on that proposal.
I want to be clear that we are not against a raise we are for a lower raise that keeps our budget intact," Youngblood said. Tactically it would just blow us away. There is no way we will get any help in Austin (state legislature) if we give a 5 percent raise. This puts us in a riskier position than we need to be."
Board members who supported the higher percentage raise said it had been two years since the district had given teachers an increase on their paychecks, and the time had come to give them what they had patiently waited for and deserved.
I see a vote for this budget as an opportunity to continue supporting the educational excellence Cy-Fair ISD has always demanded," said board secretary Lida Woodul. I am for our teachers who have stuck by us, and appreciate all they have done."
There will be no proposed maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate increase and district officials are not considering cutting or eliminating the residential homestead exemption, said Stuart Snow, Cy-Fair ISD's associate superintendent for business services.
One of the budget cuts is a shift of all schools in the district to the special education In-Class Support" model, which means that students with disabilities will be supported by special education support personnel in general education classrooms. Currently, some schools use the Co-Teach" method or a combination of the two methods.
Several parents of special needs students and students with disabilities voiced concern about the budget cut that affected those student services. Several mentioned it is not appropriate to cut those programs before cutting athletic and extracurricular programs.
We haven't cut services we have changed the model," Anthony said.
Dan McIlduff, assistant superintendent for educational support services, said the district was looking at a more flexible model.
We are not doing with doing away with all collaborative teaching in general education classrooms, we are just building capacity," McIlduff said. It will be a tailored program. If a child does not need a special education teacher five days a week, all day long, the teacher could have the flexibility to move to other classrooms during that time. It will be based on students' individual needs."
The PPCD Pre-school program and life skills programs will not be going away, he said.
Lori Gonzales, a mother of children who receive special needs services, said she is concerned about plans to disburse special education teachers.
I feel like they (special needs children) are rated second best and will always be rated second best," Gonzales said. My children have disabilities seven days a week, not two days a week."
Debbie Bush, a parent of a special needs student, said she did believe it was fair that $6.5 million of needed $10 million in budget cost savings was coming from the special education program, and that part of that cost-cutting effort involved identifying fewer students with special needs."
Identifying fewer students does not mean they are not there, it means they are being ignored," Bush said.
A list of the original proposed budget cuts can be found
Several people voiced strong support for the employee raise.
I don't see how you can invest in the children without investing in the teachers and administrators," said Reginald Lillie, the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce's immediate past chairman. We need to invest in them. A vote for this raise sends a clear message to them."
Frances Smith, president of the Cy-Fair Texas State Teachers Association, said that Cy-Fair ISD teachers work 10 to 12 hours and beyond, and now will work six out of seven class periods next year with little time to plan, call parents and perform other tasks that need to be accomplished during the school day.
For the first time the mythical bar has been raised above our heads," Smith said. The one bright spot is a pay raise. By approving the pay raise you show that you value Cy-Fair ISD teachers and that you care."
The district has cut $56 million from its bottom line since the 2006-07 school year. The future could pose additional challenges, district officials say.
Snow said projected budget deficits range from $1.7 million next year to over $60 million in 2015-16 if no additional revenue comes to the district. Revenue could be generated by an increase in the district's tax rate, the elimination of all or part the district's 20 percent optional residential property homestead exemption, or changes to the state's public education funding formula.
We have heard from every legislator we have talked with that we cannot expect any additional funding out of 2011 legislative session and possibly the next five years," Snow said.
Snow said the elimination of the homestead exemption is not a viable option because of current legislation that would not allow the district to collect all of the revenue that would be paid by taxpayers if that was taken away.
Currently we only have one option a tax rate election, which we will consider over the next few years," Snow said.
Local Advertising by PaperG