Community speaks out against proposed budget cuts at Austin ISD board meeting

File image of Austin ISD board meeting. (CBS Austin)

Parents, students, teachers, and other community members spoke out Monday night against budget cut measures Austin ISD proposed last week.

This meeting was the first opportunity the public had to comment on the proposed cuts.

The school district is facing a $29 million budget shortfall next year. Among the proposals are closing 12 schools, cutting special education programs, and increasing class sizes. If these cuts are approved, it could eliminate up to 200 jobs.

"Right now, the district decided to come out without talking to anybody about it, 12 school closures. We won't stand for it. We will not stand for 12 schools being closed," said Education Austin's Ken Zarifis.

Education Austin is the labor union for AISD employees.

Zarifis says many of these cuts would negatively affect students. "Students will have a huge impact by these cuts, because what we're ultimately here for is the students. But connected deeply with the students are the employees who work in this district that help them to achieve that," Zarifis said.

District officials say shrinking enrollment and the $669 million recapture payments for the state's poorest school districts are a few of the factors leading AISD to their financial issues.

Board members were not able to talk about the budget proposals because that was not on the meeting's agenda.

In the meantime, Zarifis says he hopes the Budget Stabilization Task Force finds a way to avoid hitting the classrooms when making cuts. "We want a budget guided by our values and our principals, not our values and our principals guided by our budget," Zarifis said.

The budget task force will present their budget cut proposal to the board in January. There will not be a final decision on any of the proposed cuts until Summer 2019.

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