D-15 Teachers Oppose Budget Cuts
Community Consolidated School District 15 teachers turned out for Wednesday's school board meeting to oppose planned budget cuts.
The District 15 school board approved about $6.1 million in budget cuts, despite a big turnout by teachers who said the cuts would hurt students.
Classroom Teachers Council President Lisa Nuss also addressed the school board, decrying "mean-spirited bullies" who spread "proganda" about teachers to paint them in a bad light.
The budget cuts are part of the district's effort to balance its budget and eliminate a projected $9.6 million deficit. The cuts would increase class sizes by elminating teaching positions and drop benefits for more than 100 program assistants.
Although the cuts for the 2012-2013 budget year were approved, school board members instructed Superintendent Scott Thompson to continue to look for ways to reverse them before next year.
Classroom Teachers Council President Lisa Nuss addressed the school board before a gymnasium that was filled with an overflow crowd that periodically erupted in applause and standing ovations throughout the meeting.
"Do you know what it's like to bring your very best only to be confronted with an onslaught of negative, false and misleading information that attempts to paint you as some kind of pariah in the school district?" Nuss said. "District 15 teachers do."
Nuss said district teachers had for years endured proganda and falsehoods designed to paint them in a bad light and blame them for the district's budget woes.
"To make us appear falsely like we were greedy, or lazy, or uncaring," Nuss said. "Falsehoods that are promoted by self-serving, mean-spirited bullies that have little interest in the truth but serve a political agenda."
Nuss said that aside from the comments of some in the community, teachers also had at times felt like they were under attack from the school board. District 15's contract with the CTC is coming to an end and a new contract is being negotiated.
"We've also had to contend with a tremendous amount of propoganda and misleading information," Nuss said. "Much of this negative information about teachers revolves around inaccurate information regarding school finances."
District 15 has more than $50 million in reserves. School officials contend that unless dealt with, the structural deficit would quickly reduce the reserves to about $4.8 million in 2016.
"We have a very large structural deficit," school board member Scott Herr said. "The growth in salaries and benefits have outpaced the growth in revenues. It's very unfortunate and it puts us in a difficult situation. Unfortunately the difference is so large I feel it is necessary to take some short-term actions to stem the flow of red ink."
School officials scaled back their first plan – which included the elimination of band and orchestra and activity buses – after hearing from residents that those cuts would be too severe. The district now will use about $3.4 million in reserves and the $6.1 million in cuts to balance the budget.
As part of the budget cuts, the district is converting all program assistants to part-time, saving about $1.258 million in benefit costs.
The district would strictly adhere to class size targets, resulting in the elimination of 13 full-time staff members for a savings of $715,000. In the past, if a school was on the border of needing another teacher, the district would round up and add the staff member. Under the new policy, the district would round down.
The district also would increase class sizes for kindergarten to sixth grade to 26 while class sizes for seventh and eighth grade would rise on average to 28 saving another $715,000.
In all about 53 full-time teaching positions would be eliminated, however, 22 of those positions would be lost through attrition thanks to retiring teachers.
School Board President Tim Millar said the district would look for options to reverse the cuts in the future.
"I think the entire board does not feel comfortable with the current levels of students in the classroom," Millar said. "This is not an easy thing for any of us to do...we don't want to cut any positions. We don't want to cut classroom teachers. We don't want to cut benefits. We don't want to do any of these things."