4/9/14

April 8 School Board meeting

The School Board held its regular meeting last night with budget reconciliation on the agenda. They are required to cut $38 million from their adopted budget request due to underfunding from the Board of Supervisors.

In reverse order, here's a recap of the night.

The School Board continued to discuss their proposed cut list (http://www.sosloudoun.org/2014/04/analyzing-cut-list.html). School Board member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) was the only member absent. The School Board started the budget discussions with an updated total showing that LCPS staff now estimate their cuts at $2.1 million less than needed to close the underfunding gap. They made a few changes to the list:
  • Proposed replacing all English Limited Learners (ELL) teacher assistants with ELL teachers to save $3.1 million. This was a plan that LCPS had been implementing through attrition (not replacing TAs and instead hiring teachers) but this would mean that the TAs would lose their positions now. 
  • Proposed capping the pay of long-term substitutes at $160/day to save $1.4 million. This keeps LCPS substitute pay competitive with surrounding counties.
  • Replaced the prior proposed cut to salary increases with a new cut that saves more money but still fixes the sag in the salary scale and gives step increases. (For more on this, see here.)

With the changes, the School Board had again covered the $38 million gap in funding from their proposed budget and the Board of Supervisors allocation. They will continue their discussions at a special work session tonight.

LCPS Superintendent Hatrick took a "point of privilege" following the public comment because he wanted the public to know that the proposed cuts are a result of the artificial crisis created by the Board of Supervisors and the School Board is not responsible. He said he was not defending the School Board and people who follow things closely know there is much they don't agree on. But he agrees with them on their adopted budget request. He said that the Board of Supervisors "willfully chose not to listen to the public or the school board about the funding that is needed for this school system." He wants you to understand what happened and hold the Board of Supervisors accountable.  He got a round of applause.

During the public input portion of the meeting, it was clear that some segments of the public had heard about the cuts the School Board has been proposing thus far. There were close to 50 speakers in all and there were many people in attendance who did not speak but showed their support for the speakers.

The largest group was Loudoun County parents whose kids go to TJ HS along with several local TJ students. One of the proposed cuts is to stop providing buses to TJ through LCPS in order to save $390,000.  The School Board believes that they are under a legal requirement to either provide free transportation or none -- they cannot legally charge fees for transportation to and from school. When the cut was proposed, there was a suggestion of asking staff to help facilitate car pools or a private bus service with TJ parents.

Half of the current LCPS Family Life Education Specialists spoke as well. There is a proposed cut to eliminate their positions and instead have PE teachers, who are certified to teach FLE, replace them in that area in order to save $1,417,400. The FLE Specialists made a point that Loudoun's FLE program is very successful and should not be changed.

Several librarians and their assistants asked to look hard at the proposed reduction of library assistants from full to half-time to save $874,650. Many have a heavy workload already and feel this would greatly reduce services to students and teachers. School Board chair Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) mentioned in the later discussion that he is looking at a way to scale technology and library assistants to the enrollment of the school instead of a flat number per school (1 or 0.5), but doesn't have a proposal yet.

A few speakers spoke in hopes of saving small schools, middle school deans, assistant athletic directors, math facilitators, or freshman sports.

One speaker presented the results of the "Don't Touch It" portion of the SOS Loudoun survey and asked the School Board to support those priorities: fixing the salary scale, reducing elementary class sizes, improving technology (especially bandwidth and computers), and expanding full-day kindergarten.

You can show your support for our priorities by signing our petition:
https://www.change.org/petitions/loudoun-county-school-board-fix-the-salary-scale-improve-bandwidth-reduce-elementary-class-sizes-expand-fdk

Once you've signed it, please share it with your friends.

To sign up to speak at the public hearing tonight on the budget cuts, call (571) 252-1020 in advance or register in person before the meeting starts. The meeting and the public input begins at 6:30pm at the School Administration building in Ashburn.

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