FORT WORTH The Fort Worth school board made a tough call Tuesday night in its uphill struggle to balance the district's budget.

It will cut staffing to the district's pre-kindergarten program, but principals may still be able to find a way around that.

There are more than 200 pre-K classes in the Fort Worth ISD, and at least one trustee worried aloud whether they will continue to be as good as they have been.

Every member of the Board of Education agreed that the pre-K program is essential.

If we don't prepare these kids properly before they get to kindergarten, their likelihood of success is diminished greatly, said District 7 Trustee Norman Robbins.

But in the end, all but District 1 Trustee Carlos Vasquez felt they had no choice but to eliminate funding for the program's teacher assistants.

Principals could still use federal funding their schools receive to keep some of the assistants.

There's no way it's going to be the quality it was, and we may have to make some adjustments, said District 5 representative Judy Needham.

The district is facing an $80 million shortfall due to drastic anticipated cuts in state funding. Fort Worth ISD has given teachers and other employees until 7 p.m. Wednesday to accept a $5,000 bonus to retire or resign.

If about 600 people voluntarily leave their jobs, staffers say no further positions would need to be trimmed.

So far, 288 teachers have taken them up on the offer.


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