As state lawmakers combed the budget this year for cuts to close a multibillion-dollar shortfall, some leaders focused on a line item that usually draws little attention: the Windham School District, which received more than $128 million in 2010-11 to provide education to inmates in the state’s sprawling prison system.
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Lawmakers will most likely cut that number significantly in the 2012-13 budget, and that could be just the beginning of big changes to come.
“The structure itself screams out for change, screams out for renovation and innovation,” said State Senator Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
The Windham School District is financed by the Texas Education Agency and overseen by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In the 2009-10 school year, about 77,500 offenders participated in some type of Windham program. The school district operates much like a regular public school system, with a superintendent, principals and teachers at campuses across the state. It provides basic adult education, vocational training, life-skills programs and college-level courses.