At the February 23 board meeting, Pflugerville Independent School District Superintendent Douglas Killian said they would not be moving forward with a plan that would close Dessau Elementary School.
“I am not going to make a recommendation to close the school tonight,” Killian said, reading a letter sent to staff earlier that day. “I am not going to make a recommendation for a closure for next school year at all. I’m going to continue to work magic with smaller cuts and state advocacy.”
The district was considering closing Dessau Elementary as part of an effort to make up a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. PfISD officials have pointed to dropping enrollment and inadequate state funding as the cause. The deficit was brought to the school board’s attention in December. Initial plans would have closed several campuses, but after community meetings in January only Dessau Elementary was still in danger of being shuttered. Killian said the district would look for other ways to save money.
“Allowing us to go into next year making whatever cuts we can will buy us some time to make change for the future,” he said.
Parents like Tiana Jackson, the president of the Dessau Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, expressed relief and joy that the school would be staying open.
“I’m grateful for the time that it gives us,” Jackson says. She says she and other parents brought together by the closure discussions are now planning to call on state legislators to increase education funding.
“We plan to stick together,” Jackson says. “We also want to stay here at our home base within the district and try to make change.”
Two bills filed at the state legislature would tackle some of these issues. One would adjust the per student allotment to account for inflation. Another would base funding off of enrollment, not attendance. But there’s currently no plan to dip into the state’s rainy day fund, and Governor Greg Abbott is leading a new push for school vouchers which advocates say pulls money away from public education. Still, Killian called on people to reach out to their legislators.
“There’s no reason any school should close when the legislature has $33 billion dollars in the bank,” Killian said.
The board also voted unanimously to approve a school boundary change to relieve overcrowding at Weiss High School.
In the meantime, the PfISD budget remains a challenge. During an update to the board on finances, PfISD chief financial officer Jennifer Land said the district had estimated that PfISD would have to pay roughly $12 million dollars back to the state in recapture payments. Now they’re estimating they will have to pay roughly $20 million dollars.
“These things are due to how the state funding system operates,” Land said. “Pflugerville ISD is not alone in a lot of these things … [but] we’re going to continue to experience this.”
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