Cost of school budget cuts: 24 teachers, 1 administrator

School board worried possible cuts could lead to lower reading scores

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2000

A possible $1.3 million cut in city funds to the Juneau School District would mean laying off up to 24 teachers, one administrator and some custodians, school officials say.

Average class sizes would go up about three students, according to figures administrators presented to the Juneau School Board's Budget Committee on Monday.

``This would be a terrible step backward,'' schools Superintendent Gary Bader said.

School board members are concerned gains in reading scores by young students will be lost if there are fewer teachers. The cuts would further reduce the number of subjects taught at Juneau-Douglas High School, said school board member Carolyn Spalding.

The Juneau Assembly, facing a budget shortfall of its own, has asked the school district to estimate the effects of an 8 percent, or $1.3 million, cut in local funding. The schools wouldn't necessarily take that large a hit, but assembly members said schools should share in city-wide cutbacks.

The city provided about $16.7 million of the school district's $37.9 million operating budget this fiscal year.

School board President Stan Ridgeway said Monday the school district needs to lay out how severe the effects of the cuts would be. He hears from citizens who think an institution can always cut 10 percent in its budget. But a lot of the school district's costs, such as salaries and building maintenance, are fixed, he said.

The school district has adjusted its budget figures since it first spoke of a $380,000 deficit even with the maximum city funding allowable. Officials now believe they can balance the budget at that level by putting less money into an early retirement program and benefiting from a break in insurance rates.

But Budget Committee members also said the current budget isn't enough to meet students' needs. They're looking at $300,000 in additions.

Possible increases include more money to replace textbooks and instructional supplies, leasing a central office computer to replace one that will no longer be supported by the manufacturer, and adding an industrial arts teacher and increasing music instruction at the high school.

Some health students at JDHS do their homework in class because there aren't enough books to take home, Spalding said. The school district is constantly going to parent groups for funds for supplies, said superintendent Bader.

``I think it's time to bite the bullet on this,'' Bader said.

The Budget Committee is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Thursday to hear more details of what the cutbacks would mean.

``We know it means more kids in classes. That's a given,'' Bader said. ``But if you have five fewer teachers, (for example) there may be some offerings that have to be taken away.''



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