FORT WORTH -- Trustees are expected to vote on an additional $13.5 million to cover teaching positions in secondary schools that were not accounted for in the original budget approved this summer.
That will drive up the Fort Worth school district's total expected shortfall to $55.9 million for this year, which will be made up from reserves.
Officials said many reasons contributed to the 200 teaching positions not being included in the adopted budget; some of the positions are still being reviewed, said Sylvia Reyna, chief of administration.
Among those factors were a higher than expected student enrollment, the creation of the career-oriented Gold Seal programs in high schools and having to fill more positions than expected from employees who left the district last year, Reyna said.
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"We're still trying to discern where things changed," Reyna said. "There was a robust number of teachers who said they would not return this year, and we hoped to not fill those positions. But for a variety of reasons -- the expansion of our schools of choice and for certification reasons -- we had to fill those positions in our secondary schools after all."
During the intense budget process last year, trustees offered teachers and other staff members $5,000 bonuses for early notification that they would not return this school year. The district paid $2 million to 451 employees -- 331 of whom were teachers -- for the bonuses, according to Chief Financial Officer Hank Johnson.
Reyna said the district's budget was built around the expected savings officials hoped to realize from not filling many of those positions. However, teaching positions from secondary schools proved harder to cut, she said.
Most elementary school teachers have general certification for kindergarten through fourth grades, while many secondary teachers have more specialized certification, such as in math, science or language arts. Additionally, the district launched the Gold Seal programs this year. The career and college readiness program focuses on specific career fields such as health, business or music.
Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby said the district had to make sure certified teachers were in place for the new programs.
"It is a great investment for those programs to have teachers certified in those areas that can support the academic rigor the students need," Dansby said.
Reyna added that the bonuses allowed the district to know in advance which staff would not be returning to minimize layoffs. "We just weren't able to net the number of cuts we needed to in secondary," she said.
The district laid off 163 employees during budget cuts, partly to make up for an expected decrease in state funding.
Trustees will also decide Tuesday whether to join hundreds of other school districts across the state in fighting Texas' school finance system.
Locally, the Arlington, Lake Worth and Everman districts have signed on to such lawsuits.
Fort Worth officials will hear presentations from three groups pursuing such litigation.
Public schools essentially have been frozen at 2006 funding levels in complex funding formulas, with districts set at different levels of funding. Fort Worth, for example, receives about $1,000 less per student than Austin, a district of similar size and student makeup. That difference amounts to about $100 million more a year for Austin.
"For us to run a district with the levels we had in 2006 with inflation on everything from electricity to fuel to pencils and papers, well, that's just an insane business model," said Ray Dickerson, Fort Worth school board president. "And it doesn't appear that the Legislature has the will to do anything."
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700