Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Abbeville cuts 23 educators; local editor diagnoses the disease

Erin Owens of the Index Journal reports today that Abbeville school trustees voted last night to cut 23 educator positions in that county, thanks to cuts in federal and local funding for public schools -- and that's before they know the level of budget cuts from the state.

For the 2011-12 school year, the school district will receive less money at the federal, state and local levels. In federal stimulus funds, $1 million will be eliminated, and local funds will be reduced by $300,000. Additional losses will come at the state level, but that amount is still unknown.

During a closed-door session at the meeting, Superintendent Ivan Randolph presented a list of seven recommendations to the board on how to cut the budget for the upcoming school year, which the board unanimously approved.

Included in the cuts for the 2011-12 school year in Abbeville County School District are:
- Combine the positions of Power School clerk and school secretary.
- Reduce athletic supplements by 10 percent.
- Reduce all custodial staff days by 20 days.
- Reduce contract days for FFA teachers by 20 days, from 240 to 220.
- Reduce the energy education supplement for two employees.
- Reduce one Spanish position, 1.5 physical education positions, .5 art position, one guidance position, one early childhood position, two elementary positions, one math position, one English position, one science position, two special education positions, four secretarial positions, six custodial positions and one teaching assistant position.

Of the positions being eliminated, Randolph said several are employees who will be retiring at the end of the school year.

During the next several months, the board will have to deal with the additional cuts to the state budget. Although the amount is currently unknown, Randolph said it is anticipated to be about 15 percent in additional cuts. Also, the passing of the state's charter school bill, which is expected to be discussed this week, could further affect the school district's budget.

The Index-Journal's associate editor, Scott Bryan, puts the trustees' decision in its political context. In essence, his formula reads: This is South Carolina; the majority of South Carolina's lawmakers do not principly support public education; ergo South Carolina's children and public schools suffer. For Bryan, the problem's cause and the problem's effect is the same: politics.

"Neglect a dog? Starve an animal? You face criminal charges, time in jail and hefty fines," he writes. "Neglect a child? Starve a mind? That's political policy in South Carolina."

LAST AUGUST, Anne Parks, D-District 12, was meeting with McCormick County Council members with Shane Massey, a state senator.
When talking about last year's budget, which Parks voted against, she gave a simple, reasonable response for her inability to support the budget.
"We didn't fund (education) like we should have funded it, and that's why I didn't vote for the budget," Parks said. "I think our children are worth more than that."
It's hard to argue with facts.
Take Greenwood District 50, for example. Because of a lack of funding from the state, more than 220 positions have been eliminated from the school district since 2008. Because of federal stimulus money, another 75 or so positions were saved this year. But there is no federal stimulus money next school year, so those 75 positions will likely disappear.
The state budget will be about a billion dollars less than the previous year, which means less money for everybody. In fact, during District 50 superintendent Darrell Johnson's State of the District address Feb. 11, he revealed the district projects more than 300 job losses between 2009 and 2012.
On top of that, the legislature is debating H3241, a charter school bill that would force Abbeville County School District to relinquish $437,048 to Calhoun Falls Charter School and online charter schools. District 50 would lose $88,390.

Essentially what's happening: we have a lot of 8-year-olds getting by on scraps.

There's a bit more to Bryan's column, and you should catch it in its entirety.

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