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Parents list their ideas to save Waco ISD money

by Mark Wiggins

WACO - Facing millions of dollars in lost funding, times are tough for school districts all over Texas. 

It's forced many districts to try creative methods of solving their budgetary dilemmas, and in Waco ISD administrators are asking parents for their ideas on how to save the district money.

For the past several weeks, Waco ISD has been utilizing feedback from its website to gather suggestions from concerned parents.  Staff compiled the dozens of different ideas into a list, sorted by category and count, to present to administrators and board members at Thursday's meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The 115 different suggestions include some unlikely to gain much traction, like "cut all sports."  However many ideas may have merit, says Waco board member David Schleicher.

"Don't spend as much money on guest speakers for the beginning of the year program," reads Schleicher.  "That's something that I've heard the superintendent say."

Many parents suggested changes to attendance and transportation policy, something Schleicher says the district is seriously looking into as a way to trim cost. 

One of the suggestions that garnered the most submissions has been one that's come up more than once at the state level, adopting a four-day school week.

But while perhaps a dream come true for some students, Schleicher says it might be a tough sell for Waco parents on the whole.

"There may be some places where that would work, but having had a kid in the district, it would have been very difficult for me or for my wife just to say, 'Now we're going to take off every Friday or take off every Monday,'" explains Schleicher.  "That would save money, but it really would be a burden on a lot of the parents."

The lengthy list isn't without a few contributions from left field, like "ask volunteers to take a pay cut" or "decrease board members salaries" something Schleicher says would be rather impossible.

"We're not getting paid," says Schleicher.  "But if we were, yes, our salary should be cut!"

The few slightly eccentric ideas notwithstanding, it's an earnest attempt to inject fresh perspective into a difficult situation facing the district, and one Schleicher is hopeful will turn out profitable.

"We have our finance people looking very closely at everything in the budget, but this is an excellent way to make sure, 'Have we thought of everything?'"

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