Fort Worth ISD plans staffing cuts to deal with enrollment declines, budget issues

dfwnewsa | February 12, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Fort Worth ISD plans staffing cuts to deal with enrollment declines, budget issues

Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Angélica Ramsey shakes a student’s hand during a school board meeting on Aug. 22, 2023, in Fort Worth. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)
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More cuts are coming to Fort Worth ISD.

In an email to staff Feb. 12, Superintendent Angélica Ramsey informed district employees that they should expect cuts to the budget and staffing. Affected employees would be notified no later than Friday, she said. 

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“It is with a heavy heart that we make these decisions, and we are doing so as early as possible to provide ample time for affected employees to explore alternative opportunities,” Ramsey said.

The school board is expected to consider a resolution backing the cuts during its Feb. 13 special meeting, according to an agenda. The resolution calls for trustees to declare “a reduction in force.” 

Some current positions will be outright eliminated, according to Ramsey’s email. However, affected employees may apply for other positions in the district.

Fort Worth ISD had 9,956 staff members during the 2022-23 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Payroll amounted to about 82% of the district’s $846.8 million budget for 2023-24, according to financial documents. That translates to about $690.2 million of the total budget.

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Classrooms will see minimal disruption because administrators are prioritizing student achievement, the superintendent said.

“Student outcomes must remain our top priority, and we appreciate your understanding and support as we navigate these challenging times together,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey laid out the reasons for Fort Worth ISD’s tough financial situation:

Declining enrollment

The Texas Legislature’s decision to not increase public education funding

COVID relief funds expiring in September

Projected budget deficit for 2024-25

“It has become necessary for us to make additional reductions both in budgets and staff,” Ramsey said.

The “reduction in force” process, outlined by board policy, details a structured approach to determining necessary staff reductions. The policy results in the least senior employees and those with limited qualifications to be cut. 

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“Our primary goal is to prioritize student success by directing our funds where they are most needed: in the classroom,” the district said in a statement similar to Ramsey’s email. 

In 2023, the district cut $3 million through consolidation of departments and administration. Ramsey described the budget slashing as the beginning of her restructuring.

The district is still in a financial tough spot. The 2023-24 budget has a $45 million deficit. Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, Fort Worth ISD chief financial officer, previously told the Fort Worth Report she expects a $44 million deficit for the 2024-25 school year budget. 

Declining enrollment is compounding the district’s financial issues. The district has lost around 1 in 5 students since 2016. Fewer students means fewer dollars from the state — $123 million, to be exact, since 2019.

Administrators are considering which schools to close as a way to save costs and to right-size the district to its enrollment. A Report analysis found 48 schools are less than 70% full, most of them in the south and east Fort Worth ISD.

A study examining campus capacity and an assessment of school conditions are expected to be released in the spring. 

Other Tarrant County school districts, including the Keller and Carroll ISDs, are also experiencing budget deficits. Keller ISD officials also said the Texas Legislature is partly responsible for its financial challenges.

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During the 2023 legislative sessions, state lawmakers did not pass multiple public education funding bills, which were linked by Gov. Greg Abbott to the passage of a voucher program.

If you go …

What: Fort Worth ISD school board special meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13

Where: Fort Worth ISD District Service Center, 7060 Camp Bowie Blvd.Watch: The meeting will be livestreamed on the Fort Worth ISD’s Live YouTube channel

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via @_jacob_sanchez. 

Matthew Sgroi is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org or @MatthewSgroi1 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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