Amarillo Independent School District could lose more than $1 million per year under President Trump’s 2018 full budget proposal, according to district officials.
Trump’s budget, released Tuesday, eliminates the federal government’s $2.3 billion Title II grant program for the 2018-19 school year, which helps with teacher recruitment and retention. At Amarillo ISD, the funds are used for teacher training and to hire teachers to reduce class sizes, district Chief Financial Officer Pati Buchenau said.
While a relatively small amount compared to its $260 million annual operating budget, the district has relied on the funds for years to pay for key programs.
“That would hurt us a lot,” Buchenau said of the proposed cuts. “We depend on those funds.”
The Title II program directly pays the salaries of a dozen teachers, she said.
The district also recently used Title II funds to hire a talent acquisition coordinator to help with its efforts to recruit more minority teachers.
Trump’s budget cuts several other public K-12 programs — including after-school and arts education programs — and increases spending for school choice initiatives such as private school vouchers. In all, the proposal seeks to trim the U.S. Department of Education’s budget by about 14 percent. However, it is not likely to pass through Congress as written.
“We need strong schools to give our future leaders in Texas every advantage, and that starts with ensuring taxpayer dollars are put to the best possible use,” U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, said in a written statement to the Amarillo Globe-News. “The President’s budget proposals are merely suggestions, and Congress will review and adjust them in the coming weeks.”
Amarillo ISD is still set to receive Title II funds next school year. “We would have a complete year to figure out what to do” if the program is cut, Buchenau said.
The more immediate focus for the school district is the Texas Legislature. State lawmakers have been debating a private school voucher program of its own that would subsidize the cost for students to attend private school.
School choice supporters, including powerful Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have blocked legislation that would boost funding for most schools — including a multimillion dollar increase for Amarillo ISD — unless the legislation includes a version of the voucher program.
Amarillo ISD, concerned about a potential shortfall without a Legislative funding fix, has been considering asking Amarillo residents to approve a local property tax hike.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Title II grant amounts for Amarillo school districts, Fiscal Year 2017:
Amarillo ISD: $1,398,652
Canyon ISD: $215,591
River Road ISD: $27,562
Highland Park ISD: $24,721
Bushland ISD: $15,692
Source: Amarillo ISD and Texas Education Agency