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Published in Print: May 5, 1999, as Budget Cuts in Cincinnati Begin With Teacher Layoffs

Budget Cuts in Cincinnati Begin With Teacher Layoffs

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Cincinnati schools will lay off 77 teachers this coming fall as part of an effort to cut $20 million from the district's budget, the school board decided last week.

The board won't vote on the rest of the reductions until it approves its 1999-2000 budget next month, but members wanted to notify teachers before April 30 that their jobs would be ending.

A $360 million budget proposed last week by Superintendent Stephen Adamowski would slash $10 million from school budgets and $10 million in administrative expenses. The proposal would freeze the salaries of teachers, administrators, and senior managers and reduce spending on nationally recognized teacher-training and mentoring programs while increasing spending on curriculum and assessment, sports programs, and special education.

"Our reconciliation is really designed around what the public is asking us to do," Mr. Adamowski said in an interview. "They want improvement, and they want us to do it at less cost."

The plan so distressed the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, that the union drafted an alternative budget proposal to be discussed with school board members later this spring, a move unprecedented in the 47,000-student district.

"We must do everything possible to restore cuts on the front line," Tom Mooney, the president of the CFT, said in a prepared statement. "We are not likely to win public support for a levy or legislators' support for more state aid unless they are convinced that [the Cincinnati district] has made the best possible use of the money it has now. This budget doesn't do that."

The school board decided to reduce the current $380 million budget earlier this spring, following an Ohio Supreme Court ruling prohibiting school districts from issuing debt beyond the current fiscal year, said Dick Gardner, the treasurer of the Cincinnati schools. In the past, the district has overextended itself by taking out bank notes and amassing a large debt. ("Cutbacks Hover Over Teacher Programs in Cincinnati," March 17, 1999.)

The district considered asking voters to approve a tax increase in May, but settled instead on a referendum in November, when voter turnout would likely be greater, Mr. Adamowski said. Much of the per-pupil funding will be replaced if the measure is passed, but the cuts to the central administration will be permanent, he said.

"We don't want to apologize for becoming as lean as we can in central services," Mr. Adamowski said.

Competing Plans

The proposed salary freeze, applicable to about 4,000 employees, would save the district $3 million, the proposed budget states. The layoffs would save more than $4 million, according to a district spokeswoman.

The district would reduce spending on the Career in Teaching Program, which prepares educators to become master teachers, by $800,000, from its current allocation of $4.3 million. About 265 lead teachers now earn annual stipends of $4,500 to $5,500 for training other teachers. The funding for the program may eventually be restored at a reduced level should the fall referendum pass, the proposed budget states.

Also under the plan, the $1.5 million budgeted for the Peer Assistance and Evaluation Program would be reduced by $638,500, and nonteaching positions in the program would be reduced from 21.5 to 12, the budget states. The program pays experienced teachers to advise and evaluate all new teachers as well as struggling veterans.

New or increased proposed expenditures include some $329,000 for curriculum and assessment, $120,000 for new athletics programs for students in 7th and 8th grades, and $1.3 million for special education.

The union's plan suggests deeper cuts in central services, less new spending in central functions, an across-the-board salary freeze that would include all employees, and a retirement incentive to veteran teachers.

"One hundred and eighty dollars per pupil is simply more than needed to be cut," Mr. Mooney said. "Only 5 million needs to be cut from schools. Five million in state aid is not beyond reasonable lobbying efforts."

"It's not much of an alternative," Mr. Adamowski said of the union's plan. "It really just comes down to a question of priorities. We've done our best."

Vol. 18, Issue 34, Page 7

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