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Cobb County to vote on deep cuts in schools | Education

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Cobb County to vote on deep cuts in schools

MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Cobb County Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on painful cuts to public education.

Earlier this month, the board approved tentative budget cuts, recommended by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, that will slice deeply into every student's classroom in the 2012-2013 school year.

Board members are facing a shortfall of more than seven percent of the budget -- $62.6 million.

So they tentatively voted to:

*Cut 350 teacher positions
*Increase class size by two
*Shorten the school year from 180 days to 175
*Increase furloughs for all employees to five days, from two
*Delay scheduled pay raises for six months
*Reduce the hours that library paraprofessionals are on the job to 60 percent

Dr. Hinojosa had hoped to avoid firing teachers; and, so far, due to attrition, only about 25 teachers remain on the job out of the 350 positions that Hinojosa wants to eliminate. Those 25 would lose their jobs, starting with those with "unsatisfactory" job ratings.

Teachers are suggesting alternatives. In a work session, the district's CFO laid out the cots of those alternatives.  A budget that includes three furlough days, a school year of 177 days, and reinstating parapros would cost the district $7.1 million.  While the district waits for property taxes to come, they would have to borrow money to meet payroll.  It's a move some board members aren't willing to take.

"Please don't triple-hit us with furlough days, and increased medical costs, and even a half-year step. I mean that really is hurting us," one teacher, Roxanne Lopez, said to the board. Lopez is a Vice President of the Cobb Association of Educators. "Please re-think. It's not just coming from me, it's coming from a lot of teachers."

"If we were to take a survey of the students, I think they would say, 'Put more money into our education, and give us back 180 days of school,'" said another teacher, Dionne Taylor, who is also a VP of CAE. "They would probably also say, 'please don't furlough our teachers anymore, and my bus is too hot, I'm tired of passing out.'"

The vote for the tentative budget was 6 to 1.  The dissenting vote came from David Banks, who prefers to cut deeper into the school system's $99 million in reserves in order to avoid cutting teacher positions and imposing furloughs.

The tentative budget cuts are still not deep enough to balance the budget, it is still in the red by $21.2 million. So reserves would be used to make up the difference.

The board is scheduled to vote Thursday evening.

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