Wave of Layoffs Hitting Public Schools in State with $32.7 Billion Surplus

A growing number of Texas public schools are confronting a wave of layoffs and budget cuts, highlighting a statewide crisis of chronic underfunding exacerbated by political decisions at the highest levels. Canutillo, Spring Branch, and Fort Worth Independent School Districts (ISDs) are among those facing dire financial constraints, leading to significant reductions in staff, the elimination of key student programs, and an erosion of educational quality. This situation is indicative of larger issues plaguing schools across the state, stemming from insufficient state support and legislative inaction.

Canutillo ISD is dealing with a nearly $6 million deficit, resulting in layoffs and potential school closures. The district’s financial crisis is partly due to an optimistic budget that counted on increased state funding that never materialized.

In Spring Branch ISD, 306 positions have been cut to tackle a $35 million budget shortfall, directly affecting essential student services. Notably, the district has shifted from employing qualified librarians to lesser-trained media center assistants, representing a downgrade of educational resources.

Fort Worth ISD, meanwhile, faces a $43.6 million deficit, leading to 133 job cuts primarily in roles supported by temporary COVID relief funds, such as technology and instructional support, further impacting the district’s ability to provide comprehensive educational services.

A common thread among these districts is the challenge of declining enrollment, which further reduces their already strained budgets. Over the past few years, charter school expansion has fueled these enrollment declines. The end of federal COVID-19 relief funds has also stripped away a critical lifeline, forcing districts to make tough decisions that directly impact education quality and student support.

Central to these challenges is the role of Texas lawmakers, particularly Gov. Greg Abbott, whose stance on tying public education funding to the debate over education savings accounts (private school vouchers) is deepening the financial crisis. This politicization of school funding has left districts scrambling to fill budget gaps without necessary state support, undermining the stability of public education in Texas.

The financial struggles and subsequent operational decisions of Canutillo, Spring Branch, and Fort Worth ISDs highlight the urgent need for a reevaluation of educational funding and priorities in Texas. Without significant increases in public education funding and support, districts across the state will continue to face increasingly dire financial situations, impacting the quality of education and accessibility of essential services for students.