Baltimore Schools Chief Proposes Up to 300 Layoffs to Balance District Budget

Baltimore city schools chief Sonja Santelises is proposing to lay off as many as 300 people, including teachers, to balance a $1.31 billion budget next year.

Santelises released her full budget plan for 2018 late Friday. It will go now to the city school board for approval.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun,

The layoffs include fewer than 75 teachers in core subjects such as math and English, school officials said. The job cuts would mean a third straight year of layoffs in the school district, though cuts in recent years did not include teachers. The layoff notices will be sent to affected teachers and administrators by June 1, officials said.

“While we had to make cuts, we kept the majority of the resources where the core of teaching and learning happens — in the classroom,” Santelises said in a statement.

The majority of layoffs will affect administrators and support staff, such as classroom assistants, special education aides, office secretaries, and central office employees. District administrators expect to further reduce the number of layoffs through routine retirements and departures that typically occur at the end of the school year.

“We are very hopeful and optimistic that there will be fewer than 300 individuals,” said Edie House-Foster, the school district spokeswoman.

The budget has been a matter of debate and worry among school district employees for months, ever since Santelises revealed in January that the school system faced a $130 million shortfall. She warned then that there could be 1,000 people laid off. But four months later, after state and city legislators pledged nearly $60 million to help narrow the budget gap, Santelises has scaled back the layoffs.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh praised the work of legislators to reduce the shortfall.

“That doesn’t make the proposed layoffs any less difficult, because these are real people and families,” she said in a statement Friday. “Funding quality education in Baltimore is a priority that we all share.”

The money from state and city legislators cut the deficit to about $70 million. Santelises closed the remaining shortfall with cuts of $30 million from schools and $10 million from the central office. She’s counting on $10 million in other savings next year, and plans to balance the budget by transferring $21 million from a reserve fund, considerably less than the $53 million diverted last year.

Her budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 represents a 2.6 percent decrease from this year.

Santelises’ budget decreases per-pupil funding for traditional schools by about $150, bringing the total to $5,416 for next year.

Charter schools are budgeted to see an increase of about $150, pushing the per-pupil total to $9,288. Charters receive more money because the central office doesn’t provide essential services and they must pay for their own administrators and building expenses.

The budget passed last year increased per-pupil amounts for traditional schools but decreased amounts for charters, both by more than $200.

Last year, the school system laid off about 100 people in a round of cuts that affected school police officers and central office administrators, but spared teachers and principals. The cuts saved about $14 million. Forty-four employees who lost their jobs worked in the central office.

In spring of 2015, administrators also laid off more than 100 people, bringing the district’s first job cuts in more than a decade. The district tapped into its rainy-day fund to avoid layoffs in 2014.

School board members are scheduled to vote May 23 on Santelises’ budget.

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