Monday, March 16, 2009

We're Lucky, This is a Must Read

Tide turns against schools as foreclosures rise--

By Greg Toppo and Jack Gillum, USA TODAY
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Way back when times were good — last April — builders showed up one day at Forest Grove Middle School and gutted a little-used classroom off the gym.
Four months and a half-million dollars later, they had transformed the space into a gleaming, bubbling mini marine biology laboratory, with five huge, blue plastic tanks for local marine life and a refrigerated tank that replicates the cold-water ecosystem off Maine.
For the first time, teacher Kevin Stinnette thought, his students could do hands-on lessons with cold-water species such as frilled anemones and Acadia hermit crabs.
Then the mortgage meltdown hit central Florida, and the crabs and anemones weren't the only ones hit with cold water. Here as elsewhere across the USA, hard times have forced schools to trim budgets, freeze hiring and, in a few cases, make substantial job cuts, raising doubts about the future of a range of programs, including the new marine lab.
Already, St. Lucie schools have lost $22 million in tax revenue from lower property values, and the district is staring at a 25% budget cut in the fall. It has frozen salaries and put central office employees on a four-day workweek. Enrollment is down only slightly but if things get much worse, schools here may cut athletics, after-school activities and summer school to the bone — or even consider a four-day week for students.

Read More: Its Bad


Ella Smith said...

This is a great post. I think the county office staff going to 4 days a week is an excellent idea. I do not think much would change at the school houses if this happened. Think how much money could be saved if 20% of the salaries were cut at the county office for a period of time.

Cerebration said...

Great quotes from the article --

The $787 billion congressional stimulus could ease the pain, but just how much is unclear.

A University of Washington analysis this year found that reduced state spending — even without local cuts — could force school districts to eliminate about 9% of K-12 jobs, or 574,277, over three years. But U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the stimulus could help prevent "hundreds of thousands" of teacher layoffs.

"I guess I'll believe it when I see it," Fowler, Ariz., schools Superintendent Marvene Lobato says of the stimulus package's potential effect on her 4,300-student district. "By the time it trickles through the legislators, I don't think the schools are going to see a whole lot in the end." ...

He has given up his annual raise and asked his employees to do the same. He dispatched 45 staffers from the 300-person central office to work in the schools as clerks, purchasers, bookkeepers and secretaries.

Since 2003, the district's central office has occupied an old Sears store in a former strip mall. Standing in the doorway of her office, school board member Kathryn Hensley jokes, "We're in 'sheets and towels.' "

On a recent Friday afternoon, the store was virtually empty — Lannon has reduced central office staff to four-day weeks so he can turn off the air conditioning and most of the lights. He works most Fridays anyway, propping his office door to let in a breeze.

Lannon has cut the jobs of assistant principals, computer techs and hall monitors. He did away with interscholastic middle-school athletics and won't provide buses for sports at any level.

We need to deal with this reality. DeKalb county has had one of the highest number foreclosures in the state.

We're just not seeing the aggressive budget-cutting here that needs to happen to prepare for a much leaner 2009-2010 school year.

So far, our administration has taken a 2% pay cut off of their six-figure salaries (ouch!)- and offered an early retirement package - which far less than predicted have chosen. In fact, jobs lost through attrition are not near the predicted level - or levels in past years. They've also cut back on transportation to magnet schools and taken back teachers step increase (but still giving all employees a 2.5% pay raise - something not seen in the private sector at all.)

Anything else?

Ella Smith said...

Actually the 2.5% raise was for the 2009-2010 year. Teachers will not get a cost of living raise this year and apparently are going to take cuts by taking away work days.

Anonymous said...

Now get Fowler Arizona's performance stats...what are we getting for our money?

Fowler's admin HQ is in a double-wide...and keeps trucking by helping in the schools.

We will face Fowler's present economic reality soon enuf. The public won't have to force it.