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Austin (Texas) district considers closing as many as 12 schools to ease deficit

Suggested closings are among 91 potential budget reductions put forth by district administrators.

The Austin (Texas) School District is considering closing 12 campuses, among other actions, to reduce the district's $29 million budget deficit.

The Austin Chronicle reports that a draft of a administration recommendation says that each closed campus could save the district about $1 million. The document does not indicate which schools could be closed, but it says that two campuses could be closed next year, seven in the 2020-21 school year, and three more in 2021-22.

The proposal documents 91 potential budget reductions. Those recommendations were not widely shared with the public or with members of the district's own Budget Stabilization Task Force, which has been working to finalize its own report on the topic.

Of the possible budget cuts, which total about $55.1 million in potential savings annually, more than half would primarily affect the district's central administration rather than individual campuses and students.

In addition to school closures, cuts that would affect students include $10.7 million in reductions to fine arts and bilingual academic programs.

At a meeting discussing the suggested cuts, Board Vice President Yasmin Wagner said that she did not understand why administrators had not identified which schools might be closed.

"I feel like we're in a position where we understand very clearly what the demographic landscape looks like for our schools," she says. "Why would we wait another year, when we could potentially realize those savings this year, and at the same time move our students into a more effective and productive academic environment?"

Austin Superintendent Paul Cruz says administrators are still assessing which campuses are most prone to closure or consolidation.

The district wants more time to understand how much its budget deficit has grown, as well as whether the coming state legislative session will offer any  school funding solutions that could ameliorate Austin's fiscal woes.

Cruz says the budget reductions being recommend will changes as more information becomes available, such as an updated demographic report of the district's student population, due in January.



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