When Texas lawmakers took up the issue of how to make fewer dollars stretch further in public schools during the 2011 legislative session, “efficiency” was a commonly uttered word.
In several months, if the plaintiffs in one of the six current school finance lawsuits against the state get their way, a court will order a study to determine what that word means in the context of public education.
Even before then, the primary target of school officials and policy makers looking to cut spending, as they continue to grapple with rising enrollment and what may continue to be decreased state revenue, will have to be personnel costs. Salaries and benefits account for an average of 80 percent to 85 percent of a district’s expenses.
How districts manage the largest strain on their budgets will be increasingly monitored as the efficiency debate progresses — as will the ways they have coped with the loss of roughly 25,000 employees they shed before the 2011-12 school year, after more than $5 billion in state financing cuts.