excerpt:"By JAMES C. McKINLEY
HUTTO, Tex. — The school superintendent in this rural town outside the state capital has taken steps to trademark the district's oddly un-Texan school mascot — the Hutto Hippo — in a frantic effort to raise cash. He is also planning to put advertisements on school buses and to let retailers have space on the school Web site.
"I'm doing some weird stuff in the district because we are low on money," said the superintendent, Douglas Killian, sitting in an office full of Hippo figurines.
He added, "We hope to make our hippo as recognizable as Mickey Mouse." (The mascot was adopted shortly after a hippopotamus escaped from a circus train in 1915 and took up temporary residence in a local creek.)
But the money expected from the sale of "Hustling Hippos" merchandise would be peanuts compared with the hole expected to open up in the district's budget, as the Legislature moves to slash about $4.8 billion in state aid to schools over two years to close a budget gap.
So Mr. Killian and the beleaguered school board have agreed to shut down a recently built grade school and to cut a 10th of the staff, among them a principal, 2 assistant principals, 4 librarians and 38 teachers. That round of staff cuts is a just first step, he says, and layoffs will follow if the budget bills proposed in the Legislature are enacted without changes.
All across Texas, school superintendents are bracing for the largest cuts to public education since World War II, and the state is not alone. Schools across the country are in trouble as billions in emergency stimulus grants from the federal government have run out, and state and federal lawmakers have interpreted the victory of fiscal hawks in November's midterm elections to mean that tax increases are out of the question.