Graham ISD Facing Multi-Million Dollar Cuts

Members of the Graham community are attempting to figure out how to survive the proposed massive cuts to education.

Currently, Texas Legislators are debating a $9.8 billion slash to public education funding.

There is a projected loss of $5 million over the next two years for the Graham Independent School District.

However, the thought of such a cut to funding is absurd to the Superintendent of Graham ISD, Dr. Beau Rees.

"I don't think we'll see those cuts. That's my opinion," he said. "I think that $10 billion in cuts would be catastrophic to public education in the state of Texas. I'm disappointed that the state would even believe that we can assume a $10 billion cut in public education."

Dr. Rees hopes state leaders can come to an agreement between hard money and the future of Texas's students.

"I don't think that we would want to have a less educated populous, so I would hope they would come to some compromise," he explained.

If the district does suffer more than $5 million in state funding, Graham ISD would be hard pressed to make cuts. Especially since state funding hasn't gone up since the 2007 school year, even though state mandates such as teacher salary increases and expensive testing materials have.

"As they review public ed and really take a microscope to it, they are going to see that they are getting a lot of bang for their buck and that we are doing a good job," said Dr. Rees. "Certainly there are areas of efficiency that we can do better in, and I think everyone all along has said, we're willing to work with you, but we hope that you hear our cries for help in terms of a $10 billion cut."

To help offset some of the costs, the district implemented an energy savings education program that would hopefully cut $2 million dollars in cost over the next 10 years. Graham ISD also will look at curbing purchases for items such as busses and delaying maintenance. The superintendent says the school board will do anything so education in the classroom won't be affected.

"Things that do have an immediate impact in the classroom would be the last things that we would look at," said Dr. Rees. "If it came into that 10-12 percent reduction, it would be hard to get to that number this year. But you would have to get there in 2012/2013 or you would become insolvent. I mean, I don't know how you could do it," he said.

The Superintendent says the state's shock and awe tactics is bad for business and detrimental for education.

"We have a mantra that Texas is open for business. And we want to keep the state a vibrant economy. You can't do that without an educated workforce and it starts with public education," he explained firmly. "Now to come in and say it's time to have limited government and to cut taxes and do these things and do that on the backs of the school children, I'm disappointed that that would even be an option."

To ensure education in Graham is a community effort, students, teachers, and residents have formed the Vision 20/20 group. The 75 member panel will come up with concerns and ideas over the state of education in their city. Members will meet 6 times over the next week to discuss the various facets of the education system, before recommending action to the school board.

Graham ISD should know the extend of their financial loss by the end of the legislative session.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6