School jobs may be at risk

Published 3:55 am Friday, December 26, 2008

FRANKLIN—Just one day after Gov. Tim Kaine proposed sharp budget cuts to the Commonwealth’s education funds, school board members and superintendents met in Richmond to discuss what those cuts mean for local school systems.

Franklin School Board Chairman Bill Scarboro was at that meeting held at the Library of Virginia. Reached by phone, he discussed the events of the day, and the news for Franklin City Schools was grim.

“It was not good news,” Scarboro said. “We are looking at about a $400 decrease in state funds per child. For us, that’s about a 7 percent reduction in funding.”

According to Scarboro, the group was addressed by Daniel Timberlake, the state’s Department of Planning and Budget director.

“He pretty much tried to emphasize what Kaine had already said about the cuts not coming from the classroom instructors,” Scarboro said.

During the meeting, Timberlake spelled out where most of the cuts would take place. Around $340 million would come from a proposed cap on the number of support personnel.

This cut would be modeled after the same state Department of Education-sanctioned formulas used to determine how many teachers, principals and librarians it takes to cover a school district.

Scarboro explained that these formulas also determine what basic education the state pays for based on the number of students in a particular school district.

Scarboro said that puts the jobs of secretaries, assistant principals, custodians and cafeteria workers in jeopardy.

“What we are talking about is a decrease in funding for all support staff,” said Scarboro.

Scarboro said that while Kaine’s proposed cuts are intended to leave classrooms alone, educators across the state are still concerned they will be forced to lay off classroom personnel.

Scarboro said it is “unreasonable” to ask school systems to cut support personnel but still require the same amount of paperwork and forms. He said school systems won’t be able to properly function without enough support staff.

Scarboro pointed out that when faced with these decisions, localities really only have three options:

n Find another way to get funding

n Go without and allow the schools to function improperly

n Cut the number of teachers in classrooms so that the number of support personnel needed to meet all state and federal requirements is available

“The spin about not cutting classroom instructors was not bought by many people,” said Scarboro. “The state is forcing school boards to be the bad actors and lay off teachers. Without the funds to keep them, what do you do? We will be left with no alternative.”

Scarboro said the only chance Virginia schools have is now in the hands of the state’s General Assembly, which will go back in session in January and is scheduled to discuss the proposed cuts. However, he is not hopeful.

“Now we have to wait and see what the legislature does with this proposal,” Scarboro said. “That’s the big question. But, since K-12 education is the biggest expenditure the state has, I’m sure they are looking at this hard. They may possibly want to make some additional cuts.”