Teaching

Shallow Pockets, Shorter Day

By Catherine Gewertz — June 05, 2007 1 min read
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Under growing pressure to bring all students to proficiency, many districts are adding more instructional time to their school days or years. But a small district in Ohio is shortening its school day.

It’s not that the Springfield Local School District is cavalier about its students’ academic performance. It trimmed its schedule to keep from going bankrupt.

The district’s board voted last month to carve 50 minutes out of the day for 5th through 8th graders, and 20 minutes for elementary school pupils. It also decided to eliminate one elementary-level teacher position and trim its spending on curricular materials and custodial service, said the district’s treasurer, Don Gambal.

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See other stories on education issues in Ohio. See data on Ohio’s public school system.

The district of 2,800 students on the southeast edge of Akron made the cuts in the wake of a May 16 declaration by the state auditor that the district was in “fiscal emergency,” the worst of three state categories of district financial trouble. Of Ohio’s 612 districts, only seven others are in fiscal emergency.

A state-appointed commission was to begin meeting with local administrators last week to craft a recovery plan, said Steve L. Faulkner, a spokesman for the auditor.

The reduction in schedule was not Springfield’s first round of cuts. Last fall, the district pared busing to save money, leaving 1,000 students to find other ways to school. It also eliminated 15 teaching positions for the 2007-08 school year.

Some of the squeeze comes from the fact that local voters have rejected proposed operating levies four times in the past year. They will consider another levy in August.

If the district must do without the $1.8 million the levy would generate, its projected shortfall for fiscal 2008 would be $2.6 million in an operating budget of $30 million, according to Mr. Gambal.

The district considered eliminating its sports program, which would have saved $1.5 million, but it feared that students—who by state law can choose their school districts—would enroll elsewhere, Mr. Gambal said.

If the levy doesn’t pass, the school board faces more serious choices, such as cutting art, music, and physical education or, ultimately, consolidating with another district, Mr. Gambal said.

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2007 edition of Education Week

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