FORT WORTH — More pre-kindergarten classes, reading and math programs and campus security improvements could be coming to the Fort Worth school district, courtesy of a $74 million boost in state funding over the next two years.The state budget approved Monday by the Texas Legislature includes $3.4 billion in new education funding over the next biennium, reversing many of the cuts made by lawmakers two years ago.Of that, Fort Worth schools would get $29 million more next year and $45 million more in 2014-15, Deputy Superintendent Hank Johnson said in a budget workshop. In the second fiscal year, the district must pay $5.3 million more to the Teacher Retirement System.Johnson outlined a variety of projects the money could be used for, including reading and math programs, additional pre-kindergarten classes, supplies for choir and art, teacher training, start-up costs for an education foundation and check-in software for campus visitors.Trustees got a list of possible projects, each tied to a specific goal in the school district’s recently adopted five-year strategic plan.Superintendent Walter Dansby said in a statement Wednesday that the additional state funding will help the district’s mission of successfully preparing students for college, careers and as community leaders.“It is a step in the right direction of returning our funding to where we were in the last biennium. It comes at the right time because we are just now implementing our new strategic plan,” Dansby said.Administrators putting together the district’s preliminary fiscal 2013-14 budget are already planning to include a 3 percent salary increase for employees at a cost of $11.5 million, and to add 130 new teaching positions, costing about $7.8 million, Johnson said.Trustee Ann Sutherland said the board’s top priorities should be a 2 percent salary boost for campus personnel only, to reform the substitute teacher program and to reduce class sizes.“Teachers have lost ground due to inflation over the past few years and maintaining purchasing power for our school site employees remains our first priority. I recommend we increase salaries for school site personnel only,” Sutherland wrote in a memo.Another budget workshop is scheduled for June 4.In other business:• Trustees voted 7-1 not to waive a district policy that forbids students from participating in commencement ceremonies if they did not pass the exit level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.The next retest is in July, which is after graduation ceremonies.Trustee Juan Rangel, who cast the lone no vote, made the motion to waive the policy after learning that a few students in his district did not get tutoring or other preparation to help them pass the test.But trustee Christene Moss said other student groups have requested a policy change but the board has turned them down.“It’s really been very difficult over the years because we’ve had students here crying,” Moss said. “We always followed the policy.”After an April retest of TAKS, 126 students still needed to pass to graduate, which is down from 159 in 2012 and 617 in 2007.• Fire Station No. 10 Community Center will be renovated using a $250,000 grant from the city of Fort Worth. The school district, which has a rental agreement that ends in December 2014, plans to buy the property at 2804 Hemphill St. for $1. The facility is used for adult education and classes in English as a second language. This article includes material from Star-Telegram archives.
Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326 Twitter: @jessamybrown