When money runs out, line up the usual suspects: Arts, music, PE and counselors
Remember those warnings that next year will even be tougher for schools than this year? It appears they were accurate.
The drastic reductions in staffing and programs under consideration in metro area school systems reflect the ongoing fallout from a bad economy. Clayton was considering one of the region’s most extreme responses: Cutting its school year by 37 days and adding two hours to each day. Instead, the county will lay off more than 75 elementary school art, music, physical education teachers and counselors despite opposition from parents — the lost positions represent half of the arts, fine arts and PE staffs.
“I don’t see a way of saving a five-day school week and arts and music at the same time,” said Clayton Superintendent Edmond Heatley.
About 600 Clayton parents showed up at a meeting this week, most to protest the elimination of the positions that they say are essential to provide children with a well-rounded education. The superintendent says aggressive action has to be taken to deal with a $49.2 million budget shortfall expected over the next two years.
As newly elected Georgia school chief John Barge has said at almost all his public appearances, educators have to do more with less. His take on the financial constraints — that tough times don’t have to dim opportunity — may not assuage the disappointed parents whose children will lose orchestra or art.
We can expect similar parent frustration as other systems begin their budget cutting.
According to the AJC:
- Atlanta Public Schools is in the midst of early budget preparations and expects a shortfall next year, though no firm figure in available yet. Last year, APS finalized a $589 million budget that cut annual spending by $67 million. Austerity measures included bigger class sizes, involuntary furlough days and a system-wide pay freeze.
- Fulton County school officials are expecting a “tough, challenging” budget process for fiscal 2012, said chief financial officer Robert Morales. Between reductions in proposed state budget and a 5 percent reduction in property tax revenues, Morales’ office projects a budget reduction of $43.4 million. Last August, the system approved its first tax increase in over five years to balance the 2010-11 budget.
- Gwinnett County is anticipating a revenue shortfall of about $75 million, though a recommended budget won’t be finalized until late March. Anticipated cost-saving measures include cuts in school staffing allotments, continued hiring freeze at the district level and more division/operational cuts at the central office of at least 5 percent. No layoffs of full-time workers is anticipated.
- Cobb County, the state’s second largest district, was originally expecting a $20 million to $35 million gap, but new estimates put the figure closer to $40 million to $50 million, district spokesman Jay Dillon said. The district is planning for a shorter 175-day school year, five employee furlough days and no salary increases. They don’t anticipate teaching positions will be cut. The district plans to present the board a draft budget in late April or early May.
- Unlike other districts, DeKalb officials said they do not expect a shortfall due to deep cuts made in previous years. They also plan to cancel furlough days for some workers and cut back the number of furlough days for other workers.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog