Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hiring teachers, lowering class sizes and restoring the arts and how to pay for it

From the Sun Sentinel By Cara Fitzpatrick, Sun Sentinel

For the first time in several years, the Broward School District plans to hire teachers, reduce class sizes and restore art, music and physical education in its elementary schools.

To help pay for it, Superintendent Robert Runcie said there likely will be layoffs from the district's administration. He also is pushing for a change in high school schedules, something that could prove unpopular with parents who favor "block" scheduling.

Students on block schedules take fewer classes a day, but have longer class periods. Runcie said that makes it tough to keep class sizes low and limits the number of electives a student can take.

Miramar "We're going to try to work that out and hope that rational minds prevail," he said.

District officials haven't determined yet how many teachers would be hired or how many workers would be laid off. Runcie said those details should be worked out next month; he estimated that "hundreds" of teachers would ultimately be hired.

Teachers also are unlikely to get raises this year, he said. Last year, teachers each received a $500 bonus, the first time in three years that the district and the teachers union reached an agreement.

Runcie said raises would require even greater cuts. District officials will be negotiating with the union over the next couple of weeks, he said. But the "bottom line" is "we're not going to have any layoff of teachers," Runcie said.

District officials have fewer budget constraints this year, although funding is still down. Last year, the district faced a $171 million shortfall and used about $55 million in one-time funds to help fill the gap.

For the coming year, the state restored about $63 million to the school district, or about $155 more per student. The district estimates it will receive about $6,379 total per student next year.

With cost-cutting and some additional money coming in, the district so far faces only a $4 million shortfall, according to budget documents.

Runcie said it's a "major priority" to lower class sizes this year.

He said the district can't have a repeat of last year when it cut about 1,000 teachers, resulting in overloaded classes and a whopping $66 million fine from the state. Broward was the state's worst class-size offender, with more than half of its classes over the limits by the October deadline.

Some elective classes, which don't fall under the state's rules, had 40, 60 or even 70 students. Some Advanced Placement classes, which were exempt from the rules for the first time, had 30 or more students. Before the change, they were limited to 25.

The district's fine has been reduced to between $6 million and $8 million, he said.

Some high schools eliminated dozens of teacher positions last year because of the cuts. Cypress Bay High, the county's biggest high school, lost 40 teacher jobs, followed by 30 at Miramar High, 29 at Boyd Anderson High and 27 at South Plantation High.

Elementary schools lost only a few teachers each, but cut electives. More than 50 elementary schools cut students' library time, 44 cut art, 30 cut physical education and 26 cut music.

Runcie already has announced that he will try to restore those classes by cutting about $15 million from the district's transportation department. To hit that number, more than 100 vacant positions are being absorbed and some employees will be laid off, he said.

Bus routes also will be reviewed to reduce fuel usage and equipment could be sold.

About $28 million will be cut from the district's administrative side, including the $15 million from transportation, he said. The other $13 million will come from consolidating job functions and "some layoffs."

The district's top officials are looking at the departments for redundant positions, he said. For example, if every department has its own budget director, some of those jobs could be consolidated, he said. Same goes for similar jobs in the schools.

Runcie said he's also going to try to eliminate some of the principals' non-instructional job duties so that they can focus on instruction and academics.

Schools should start looking at their individual budgets in the next couple of weeks, he said. District officials will release a more complete budget then too, he said.

"We're just trying to work out the details," he said., 954-356-4527, Twitter @Fitz_ly,0,5160241.story

No comments:

Post a Comment