Millions In Cuts For Cleveland Schools

The Cleveland Board of Education approved a new budget with millions of dollars in cuts. The cuts are so drastic that there are some employees of the Cleveland Schools who don’t know if they have jobs next school year. Some non-instructional union employees, such as cleaners, custodians and clerical workers, will most definitely see job cuts. Other non-union jobs are also at risk.

Chief of Staff, Lisa Marie Ruda, said specific numbers won’t be known until early next week, when district officials finish adding up positions already lost to retirement or attrition. In the recent weeks, over 500 teachers and paraprofessional educators throughout Cleveland Schools have received layoff notices; some effective immediately and others in the fall. These recent cuts are reflective of $35.4 million in salaries and benefits from last school year. Last month the Cleveland Schools voted to close 22 schools in order to save money. Over the past three years there have been over $100 million in cuts. And on August 2nd voters will be asked to approve a tax increase that could raise an additional $48 million for the Cleveland Schools.

The Cleveland Schools CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett,blamed the slashes on the state cuts. Cleveland Schools could lose as much as $6 million in Medicaid monies which are used to provide speech, hearing and occupational therapists for needy students. Another $6 million in general funds from the revised state budget will also be lost to Cleveland Schools.

The state Senate changed its proposed two-year education budget in May. Cleveland Schools would have received a half-percent increase in state aid in 2006 and 1.2 percent more in 2007 under the originally proposed budget. However the revised plan that Gov. Taft must approve does not provide any increases for Cleveland Schools at all.

There are two sets of employee groups within the Cleveland Schools who will be saved from layoffs. Bus drivers, who had about 130 lay-offs last winter, will be among those. Also the Cleveland Schools will not cut security officers because they are needed to keep students in the high schools safe and secure. The bus system itself is being looked at carefully. An outside company hired by Cleveland Schools, TransPar Group, will be looking into the district’s transportation program. This is a move to privatize the management of this department after it was involved in a number of complaints and scandals. The Cleveland Schools had to repay $729,000 to the state because school bus counts were wrong. This is hardly something a district undergoing severe cuts can afford to do. TransPar will be paid $50,000 to audit and evaluate the current system.

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