Schools Brace for More Budget Cuts

(LANCASTER, Pa.) — Educators are bracing for a tough reality: As difficult as budget cuts have been on schools, more tough times are likely ahead.

Even in a best-case scenario that assumes strong economic growth next year, it won’t be until 2013 or later when districts see budget levels return to pre-recession levels, said Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va. That means more cuts and layoffs are likely ahead.

“The worst part is that it’s not over,” Domenech said.

Already, an estimated 294,000 jobs in the education sector have been lost since 2008, including those in higher education.

The cuts are felt from Keller, Texas, where the district moved to a pay-for-ride transportation system rather than cut busing altogether, to Georgia, where 20 days were shaved off the calendar for pre-kindergarten classes. In California, a survey found that nearly half of all districts last year cut or reduced art, drama and music programs. Nationally, 120 districts — primarily in rural areas — have gone to a four-day school week to save on transportation and utility costs, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Others are implementing fees to play sports, cutting field trips and ending after-school programs. (See what’s on the chopping block for school budget cuts.)

Districts have little choice but to put off buying textbooks and technology and training teachers, said Rob Monson, a principal in Parkston, S.D., who is president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

On a recent day at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Lancaster, teenage girls in ponytails and boys in long athletic shorts dashed across the gym, pausing their game of indoor tennis to motion “Y-M-C-A” with their arms as the Village People’s song blares from the loudspeaker. It’s a scene happening less frequently these days. Budget cuts and teacher layoffs have forced the school to cut some P.E. classes, reduce library hours and eliminate small literacy classes for struggling readers and Spanish for sixth- and seventh-graders.

Principal Josh Keene says he’s worried — not just about offering electives next year, but whether class sizes in core subjects will jump from around 25 to 35 or 40. His district received $6 million less from the state this year, which meant six staff positions in his school were cut. Even if state funding remains the same next year, the district expects to have from $5 million to $7 million less because of increased pension obligations and other expenses.

“I’m scared to death. As we continue to look at fewer and fewer non-classroom positions that are there, at some point it’s going to impact core classroom positions and that’s a very, very scary thing,” said Keene.

by Ap/Kimberly Hefling.

Read more @ http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2097650,00.htm

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