Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fayette schools teachers meet with administrators to discuss $20 million in budget cuts

This from the Herald-Leader:
Some teachers huddled over a table in a corner while others used calculators and took notes Tuesday night during a Fayette County Schools forum for teachers to express opinions about the district's budget.

The forum at Northeast Christian Church came about a month after district officials said they needed to trim $20 million from the school system's 2014-15 budget. The district is operating with a $433 million budget this school year. Superintendent Tom Shelton scheduled the forum by request from district employees. A forum was held March 6 for about 375 parents, teachers and students.
A chief concern at last week's meeting was that the loss of programs and quality teachers would hurt student development. Others expressed concerns about spending money wisely and proposed that cuts be made gradually.

Tuesday night's crowd of about 225 sat at tables while a moderator at each table wrote suggestions on flip charts. Shelton then passed around a microphone, and a spokesperson from each group presented its concerns.

Ideas about student-teacher ratios, student achievement and job security were all written down and spoken into the microphone. One sign said: "Quality education provided by quality teachers." Another sign made it clear that teachers wanted "kids' needs to be met."

Suggestions for both forums will be posted on the district's budget website.

"The level of care and concern for our students is evident," said Henry Clay High School English teacher Jessica Andrews. "The educators in this county are dedicated."

Andrews, who has three children attending schools in the district, said she doesn't believe that transparency and timing "was the most effective," which resulted in fear.

"There seems to have been a level of surprise or concerns administratively that people have reacted with such passion," she said. "It was an underestimation on how much our school employees care about our kids. You just don't turn it on at school. You're a teacher all the time."

Cuts are needed because of national and state economic struggles over the past several years, and the district has lost significant state and federal funding. When grants have been cut, the district has picked up the costs.

While other districts have had significant layoffs, Fayette raised employee salaries in order to recruit and retain talented staff members, Shelton has said. The district is on solid financial ground, but expenses have continued to increase and spending is outpacing revenue. Shelton said that in 2009-10, the fund balance of reserves in the general fund was $56.72 million; the fund balance is $36.5 million this school year.

"That sounds like a very large number, but again, it would make about one and half months payroll for us," Shelton said.

He added that it's uncommon to see a district spend money from its reserves for so long.

"We are not in a crisis situation now," Shelton said after receiving questions from the crowd. "We're not broke. We still have $36 million in our fund balance. But if we don't make some changes we're going to be broke in about two years."

Eighty-nine percent of the school district's budget is devoted to salaries and benefits for the district's 5,815 employees.

Each spring, schools receive an allocation outlining the number of positions each school has earned based on projected student enrollment numbers. School-based decision-making councils then decide how to staff each school, setting class sizes, schedules and course offerings.

Shelton told the Herald-Leader that he submitted allocations about staff projections to school administrators this month, a requirement mandated by state law. He said that schools were given the projections with a possibility that they might be revised by the May 1 deadline. The projections are "based on enrollment for this upcoming year."

The budget must be submitted and given to the board by May 31.

Second District school board member Douglas W. Barnett said that the major priorities for the district are class sizes, closing the achievement gap, student engagement and the needs of each individual school.

"We'll use all of our resources in a manner in which it's going to help the most kids throughout the district," he said. "Everything has to be child focused. ... Every child has to be college and career ready. And that is the main focus, to make sure that we allocate the resources that that goal is met."

Read more here:


Anonymous said...

"Window dressing." "A fake forum." "Are they really lstening?" A FCPS administrator at every table. It was like a "mole" was watching me and taking notes said one person.

Eight police officers in the back of the room. Very intimidating. Was there a fear of violence?

This was a grave disappointment. As a parent, I could see that teachers felt nobody was really listening to their concerns.

There was a lot of fear about speaking up.

Another community memeber asked "How can we say its about kids" when we are trimming 20 million from the budget??

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Maybe we should ask how many employees are being given a promotion and a raise while others have been told their calendars and pay will be cut or their position may be eliminated? Will the ones that get added responsibilites from a reduction in the work force get more money for doing more? And a fancy title? Probably not, but some folks have managed to swing some nice deals while no one was looking.

Most of us would gladly take a pay cut to keep co-workers and ourselves employed. Will administrator pay be cut too? IAKSS director and chief pay? Am guessing not.

Anonymous said...

Like the last comment! Keep speaking up.

Anonymous said...

Carefully staged, this was possibly the slickest community form my husband and I attended. Instead of allowing the public to address Dr. Shelton and the Board, people were given a tablet to "brainstorm." Then the top concerns were shared with the Board. This was a brilliant way to deflect criticism and promote the illusion of a democracy.

Anonymous said...

So if superintendent makes a decision about budget based upon his own judgement (his job) he is disenfranchising and not being a collaborative leader. If he provides folks with opportunity to voice ideas - it is a charade intended to intimidate teachers and ignore their voice. I don't really know what is going to make FCPS teachers happy or at least feel like contributors to the discussion.

Unfortunately there is not magic solution and some folks are going to lose something and regardless of who ends up on the short end of the stick folks, and those individuals aren't going to be happy.

Seems like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't as a superintendent there. Might as well just proceed with what you think is best and let the chips fall where they may instead of dragging this thing out.