Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Schools continue to deal with cuts and layoffs; 120 districts, mostly rural, are on four-day weeks

In anticipation of more budget cuts, 120 school districts across the country, mostly in rural areas, have started a four-day week to save on transportation and utility costs, reports Kim Hefling of The Associated Press. Other measures to save money include charging fees to play sports, cutting field trips and ending art, drama, P.E. music and after-school programs. But some districts still can't afford to buy textbooks or update technology. Josh Keene, principal at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Lancaster, Pa., told Hefling he's worried an increase in class size and decrease in state funding will soon cause him to lay off classroom teachers.

Predictions from the American Association of School Administrators show school budget levels won't return to normal until 2013 or later, which means layoffs and cuts are likely to continue. Hefling reports that about 294,000 education jobs have been lost since 2008. Full-day kindergarten or preschool was eliminated in 30 percent of Pennsylvania districts. Hefling reports that poorer districts, which are mostly rural, are hit hardest because they rely heavily on state money.

President Obama include $30 billion to protect teachers' jobs nationwide in his jobs bill, but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said "the plan resembles 'bailouts' that haven't proven to work and only perpetuate economic problems." Some say districts haven't spent tax dollars wisely and didn't prepare well for the end of $100 billion in stimulus money. Karen Miles, executive director of the Watertown, Mass.-based Education Resource Strategies, said districts should use this time to focus on teacher quality and compensation based on performance. (Read more)

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