The city’s school district is seeking to eliminate 363 jobs in order to balance its fiscal year 2015-16 budget without raising $5 million in tax revenue from homeowners.
15 district administrators, 19 secretaries, 72 instructional aides, and 197 teachers are being cut, said state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans during Wednesday evening’s school board meeting.
“That number is so scary I can’t even say it,” said school board Lilisa Mimms. She said the district readily finds money in the budget to start up new programs for just about anything; she cited the single gender school and the rest of the elementary school choice offerings as examples.
Mimms suggested putting that money to better use. “Why not use some of that money to keep some of our teachers,” said Mimms. “We’re creating projects that require teachers, but we’re cutting teachers.”
How many classroom teachers will we lose? asked school board president Jonathan Hodges. Evans said that has to be determined by school principals. Evans further said science, math, and English language teachers are off the chopping board.
The superintendent said some of the positions will be eliminated through retirements and resignations or attrition and the rest through layoffs.
“It’s a recipe for failure,” Linda Reid, president of the Parent Education Organizing Council (PEOC), an education advocacy. “The schools are already missing teachers.”
Reid said classrooms are already crowed. Greta Mills, School 26 teacher, said classrooms at her school have over 25 kids being taught by one teacher.
Reid said that problem is will get worse.
“It’s a sad thing to hear especially since we’re struggling,” said Mills.
“I don’t see how we can lose 197 teachers and not affect the kids,” said Rosie Grant, director of the Paterson Education Fund. She said unless teachers are loitering about inside the school buildings the cuts will hurt.
“We’re going to attempt to do it in a way it won’t have a tremendous negative impact,” said Evans of the teacher cuts.
The superintendent has been under immense pressure over a proposal to increase local taxes by 13-percent. City officials and school board members have come out against the tax hike proposal which was taken out in the revised budget that was available for public inspection during the meeting.
Evans said the district submitted the $568.23 million revised budget without the tax levy increase to the Passaic County superintendent of schools. Although the tax levy increase was taken out from this year’s budget, Hodges warned the district’s finances will only deteriorate.
Hodges said as the state refuses to fully fund the city’s schools as is required by the School Funding Reform Act, the next two budgets could make local tax hike a reality.
“Our aim was to do it in a way that did not require any additional local taxes for educational purposes, and we have accomplished that,” said Evans. “We’re not asking for any increases in taxes for education from our community.”