There seems to be little good news on the school budget front in Cobb where parents are looking at fewer days and teachers as the system grapples with fallen real estate taxes and reduced state funding.
Here would be my concerns if I were a Cobb parent: When do these cuts erode quality? Cobb has had a jewel of a school system. Its public schools have long been a enticement for middle-class families to settle in the county. I know friends who accepted an hour commute in exchange for Cobb County schools.
Can quality survive this level of cuts?
The board voted 6-1 for an $842 million general fund budget for the 2012-13 school year. That’s down $10 million from the current year’s spending, but officials still didn’t cut enough to match revenues. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa proposed plugging a $21 million deficit with reserves.
If the tentative budget becomes final, there will be about 400 fewer instructional personnel, 350 of them teachers, and maximum class sizes will rise by two students across all grades. The school year will be missing five days when teachers will be furloughed. And the teachers who remain will have less help, as paraprofessionals see their hours cut nearly in half. Finally, step increases for teachers will be cut in half.
“It’s been a long journey, a very unpleasant journey for all of us,” Hinojosa said.
The budget can still change. It doesn’t become final until a May 17 scheduled vote. Board member David Banks cast the dissenting vote. He wants officials to cut less and use more reserves.
Some of his colleagues wanted to pull back from other cuts, expressing concern, for instance, with the five furlough days.
But they were also looking down the road to an even bleaker 2013-14 school year. Revenues aren’t expected to grow by then, yet costs for things such as medical care are expected to continue rising. So the school system will have to pull yet more money out of reserves to maintain spending levels – money it doesn’t have.
From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog