Partly Cloudy70° WeatherPartly Cloudy70° Weather

Florida public schools' new lesson: cuts

A first grader counts on her fingers during math lessons at Veritas Preparatory Academy, a private Christian school in Pinellas Park that serves about 140 students in Grades K-11. The school follows a “University-Model” approach, which means that kids spend part of the week in a traditional classroom setting and part of the week working on assignments at home.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times (2006)

A first grader counts on her fingers during math lessons at Veritas Preparatory Academy, a private Christian school in Pinellas Park that serves about 140 students in Grades K-11. The school follows a “University-Model” approach, which means that kids spend part of the week in a traditional classroom setting and part of the week working on assignments at home.

Chop, chop, chop. Since October 2007, the state has cut $1.4 billion of core funding from public schools. Some districts have closed schools. Many have frozen teacher pay. One has unscrewed the light bulbs from its vending machines. But with revenues continuing to fall, the worst may be yet to come. Lawmakers may have to cut core school funding by another $300 million before this school year is over (even though they just cut nearly $500 million last month). And during the legislative session that begins March 3, cuts could approach $2 billion more for next year. Some relief is on its way. For teachers, the federal stimulus package signed by President Obama could be the difference between pay cuts and another pay freeze. For districts, it could mean some people don't get laid off and some crucial programs don't get vaporized. But the stimulus isn't enough to shield schools completely. Here's a look at what has been whacked so far. And what might be next on the chopping block.

Compiled by Times staff writers Ron Matus, Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tom Marshall, Thomas C. Tobin and Letitia Stein

Core state spending on education

• In July 2007, before budget cuts began: $19.3 billion

• In January, after the most recent cuts: $17.9 billion

• Potential cuts for next school year: as much as $2 billion

Source: Florida Department of Education, Florida Legislature

Per pupil funding

• In July 2007, before budget cuts began: $7,306

• In January, after the most recent cuts: $6,860

• National average: $9,138 in 2006

Source: Florida Department of Education, 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report

Some of what has been cut to date at the state level

• Bonuses for high-performing schools reduced from $100 per student to $85 per student

• Number of reading coaches statewide reduced from 2,560 last year to 2,382

• Eliminated mentoring bonuses for national board certified teachers ($5,322 per teacher last year) and a subsidy that paid 90 percent of the $2,500 application fee for teachers seeking that certification

• Eliminated the FCAT norm-referenced test, which allowed the state to compare the performance of Florida students to other students across the nation

Examples of penny-pinching from around the state

Sarasota County: Officials took the light bulbs out of the front of vending machines.

Palm Beach County: The district told employees to turn off computers at night.

Volusia County: The superintendent told teachers they could no longer keep coffeepots, microwaves and other personal appliances at work.

Cuts around the bay area

Pay freezes, school closings, fewer days for summer schools, and resetting the thermostat are part of reductions. 5B

Pinellas

Core funding before cuts began: $795 million

Core funding after latest cuts: $726 million

Expected cuts for next year: $65 million (the district has already cut $13 million of that)**

Consequences to date

• Froze teacher pay

• Eliminated 500 positions

• Closed two middle schools and eight elementary schools

• Revoked bus service for about 17,000 students

• Eliminated one assistant principal at most middle and high schools

• Reduced contingency fund to 1.5 percent of the budget

Penny-pinching

• Forced middle school teachers to be in classrooms more (six of seven periods), which saved about $2.2 million in salaries but sparked a bitter backlash

What might be next

• Furloughs

• Cutting high school sports

• Revising high school schedules

• Cutting supervisory positions, especially in transportation

• Selling surplus property

Hillsborough

Core funding before cuts began: $1.392 billion

Core funding after latest cuts: $1.310 billion

Expected cuts for next year: around $120 million**

Consequences to date

• 2 percent raise for teachers

• Cut summer school weeks to four days

Penny-pinching

• Bumped thermostat up by two degrees, to 76 degrees (savings: nearly a half-million dollars)

What might be next

• Could remove a day from its 181-day calendar, with corresponding reduction in pay for employees

• Employees surveyed about furloughs and higher costs for health insurance

Pasco

Core funding before cuts began: $475 million

Core funding after latest cuts: $454 million

Expected cuts for next year: $30 million to $40 million**

Consequences to date

• No raises for teachers

• Delayed hiring more teachers to meet class-size amendment

• Eliminated all nonrequired summer programs

• Hiring freeze

• Canceled all recruiting trips

Penny-pinching

• Required all employees to have direct deposit of payroll to reduce costs associated with printing and mailing checks (savings: $50,000)

• Canceled speaker for back-to-school annual celebration (savings: $5,000)

What might be next

• Eliminating courtesy bus routes

• Changing schedules for middle and high schools

• Cutting one paid holiday

• Increasing cost of employee benefits

• Cutting athletics and extracurricular programs

• Another year without raises

• Postponement of new textbook purchases

Hernando

Core funding before cuts began: $163 million

Core funding after latest cuts: $149 million

Expected cuts for next year: $16 million to $30 million**

Consequences to date

• Eliminated 54 teaching positions and about 48 staff jobs

• Limited teacher raises to 1.5 percent

Penny-pinching

• Food services turning to potatoes and scrimping on bread, in response to soaring commodities prices

• May narrow the hallway of a proposed K-8 school from 12 feet wide to 8 feet, to save on building costs (not to mention having a smaller gym and a smaller library)

What might be next

• 5 percent pay cuts for all employees

• Eliminating 129 teaching positions and 27 staff jobs through attrition

• Increasing class sizes

• Closing all district buildings in July and during winter and spring breaks

• Eliminating driver's education

• Cutting the district's 20 reading coaches by half

• Eliminating bus service to magnet schools

• Reducing paid days for principals from 249 to 239, and for assistant principals from 249 to 216

** District projections were made before Feb. 9, when Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith told superintendents to plan for a 15 percent cut next year instead of 10 percent. They were also made before details of the stimulus package, which President Obama signed Tuesday, had emerged.

Florida public schools' new lesson: cuts 02/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 12:24pm]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...