• Senate panel gets stark forecast on school finances
    • “Texas school districts are facing tough decisions unparalleled in my 20 years as a superintendent,” said Richard Middleton, legislative chairman of the Texas Association of School Administrators, to members of the Senate Education Committee.
    • Escalating costs are leaving many districts with a growing budget shortfall, seriously impairing their ability to provide services.
    • “I know right now all our school districts are looking at cost-cutting measures,” said Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a member of the commitee.
    • Middleton, who is superintendent of the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, cited a litany of factors affecting costs that include rising utility and transportation expenses, expanding enrollments and state-mandated salary increases.
    • “I’ve got to make decisions on what to eliminate or what to reduce,” he told the Star-Telegram.
    • The added financial pressures in education come at a time when lawmakers are bracing for an overall budget shortfall of more than $10 billion — and possibly as high as $20 billion — when they convene in January.
    • Arlington school officials expect a $12 million shortfall this year. Fort Worth officials have made various budget cuts to save money, including layoffs and a reduction in adult education programs. They are considering plans to close small schools to better use district resources.
    • In the Carroll district, administrators blame the new state finance formula for a budget shortfall, prompting the district to dip into savings for about $3.3 million for the 2009-10 budget.
    • Staff writers Traci Shurley, Jessamy Brown, Eva-Marie Ayala and Shirley Jinkins contributed to this report.

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