Special Ed Cuts, Fee Increases Likely for D300
The school board is expected to make it's final decision on cuts during its Feb. 28 meeting.
With $8.3 million on the chopping block for District 300, its school board met this week to further discuss what should be cut.
The second version of District 300’s proposed budget cuts takes money away from the special education program, proposes a hike in school registration fees and calls for eliminating 50 middle and high school teachers in 2012-2013, should teachers refuse to accept step-pay freezes.
One massive change from the original proposal included nearly $400,000 in cuts from special education. The savings would come in the form of two retiring teachers and cutting nine cassroom teachers’ aides.
“I feel as if I’ve been punched in the stomach,” said Algonquin resident Carrie Koenig, who has a 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter in the special education program. “We need the teachers and we need the crucial support of the paraprofessionals in the classroom. I can speak for both of my children. They already don’t get enough support. If you take more money away, our children are not going to progress and they are not going to reach their potential.”
The special education reduction for 2011-2012 depends upon the results of a Special Education Audit due next month that aims to improve special education services, school officials said
Looking Forward: Work Session Meeting
School board members did not discuss the new budget reduction list in detail at Monday night's meeting.
The board will hold a work session meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Westfield Community School, 2100 Sleepy Hollow Road, in Algonquin, where the final list of reductions will be analyzed.
District 300, which serves more than 20,000 students, is struggling to balance its budget since the state of Illinois has failed to deliver money owed to the district. The state has not sent $9 million owed District 300 for the 2010-2011 school year, said Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates.
The updated reduction list contains input from the Community Finance Committee, which met last month to review the proposed cuts and offer input. For more on that meeting, visit here.
Hike in Student Registration and Textbook Fees
Per the CFC's recommendation, a proposed 5-percent increase in student fees for registration and textbooks has been added to the list. The fee hike would bring about $71,226 in additional revenues, Crates said.
The district is also seeking to save $4.2 million in employee wage and health insurance concessions.
About $2.5 million would come from teachers’ agreeing to forgo step-pay increases. Step increases, outlined on a predetermined schedule, are automatic annual pay increases teachers receive based upon their years of service.
LEAD 300, the teachers union, will begin negotiating with District 300 soon as the teachers contract expires in June.
Staff and Program Cuts for Middle, High Schools
Should negotiations on the step pay increase fail, the Administrative Proposal Version-2 for Budget Reduction list calls for restructuring the secondary school programs – those for high schools and middle schools for the 2012-2013 school year.
Crates told the board that administrators could shorten the school day for both middle and high school students, drop several elective courses and focus on offering the core classes of mathematics, science and literature.
The shortened school day, and fewer elective courses, would result in the district needing fewer teachers. The proposal would eliminate 50 teaching positions at a savings of $2.5 million.
Proposed cuts to the Preschool for All program, saving the district $761,295, also was moved into the 2012-2013 school year. The reduction, based on the unreliable and insufficient state funding, also hinges upon whether teachers agree to forgo step-pay increases.
A proposed cut to reduce the school nursing staff by 10 percent was removed from the updated list. Crates said the suggestion to eliminate four nurses, resulting in one nurse serving two schools, was not supported by the CFC or school principals. Reducing the nursing staff would save about $168,382.
While school board members briefly addressed the financial impact of the budget reductions, they also asked school administrators to gather more information about the educational-impact of the cuts.
“It’s hard for me to make (financial) decisions without knowing what the ramifications are to education and learning,” School Board member Anne Miller said. “I think it’s important for the public to know than when these cuts are made, what it is that we’re going to be able to deliver.”