The layoffs had been planned for months, as the TEA seeks to reduce its staff by 32 percent and its operating budget by $48 million, or 36 percent. The agency's Debbie Ratcliffe says payroll and benefits are the bulks of those costs.
"We've known for months that we would have to do layoffs. In fact we did our first round of layoffs in February and terminated 91 employees then. We're laying off 178 people this week. And then we had another 58 who retired or resigned in between these two rounds of layoffs, and a few others that were transferred. So by the close of business this Friday, we'll have 343 fewer employees than we had in January."
The TEA oversees pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade education and allocates billions of dollars to school districts.
"We'll still carry out our most critical programs — things that are critical to our mission. Things that aren't required by statute or federal law will have to get a second look to see if we can still carry them out. We'll still do the best job we can, but it'll be a lot harder with a 32 percent reduction in staff."
Employees being cut are receiving 45 days of pay, taking them through the end of the fiscal year. The Legislative Budget Board says the 2012-2013 state budget will cut 5,700 state government jobs — a 2.4 percent reduction from the last two-year cycle.