DECATUR — The Decatur Board of Education approved $7,436,197 in budget cuts at its meeting Tuesday.
Those cuts include 17 teaching assistants, 36 teachers, one administrator, three administrative support positions, nine clerical workers, one Teamster, five maintenance workers and five custodians.
Some positions will be vacated due to retirements and resignations and not filled, said Superintendent Gloria Davis.
“This is not easy for the board and not easy for the staff,” said board member Brian Hodges. “It makes a difference in the district and in what we do. This whole situation is not getting better, and it probably won’t get better next year. I don’t think anybody’s happy with the cuts. We don’t want to see people lose their jobs.”
With reductions in state and federal funding and the recession’s effect on property values that lowered the tax money received by the district, said Todd Covault, director of business affairs, the district’s revenue stream took a serious hit.
“The impact on teaching assistants is far greater than it appears on paper,” said Paula Busboom, president of the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants. “That is a combination of things. We have a reduction in Title I funding, and that’s not reflected in the budget cuts, so those people are either (reduction in force) or displaced. We also have classified assistants that are (laid off) every year because (their numbers) are on a case-by-case basis.”
When an employee is displaced, she said, it means their job is eliminated, but they can be moved to a different position due to seniority and training.
Part of the budget plan is to take the high schools off block scheduling and return them to traditional seven-period days. That eliminated 24 teaching positions and will have a major impact on students’ electives, said Suzanne Kreps, president of the Decatur Education Association. With only seven periods instead of eight — with block scheduling, students had four periods on A days and four different ones on B days — students will have their five core subject classes and only two electives per semester. She said she feared that music, foreign language and other subjects would suffer.
Some of the displaced teachers could be moved, she said.
“I think it’ll be about 20 total teachers that will be without a job,” Kreps said.
Several board members and Superintendent Gloria Davis said during the meeting that they realize the difficulties they’re placing on employees.
“We are talking about people’s lives,” Davis said. “We readily understand that there aren’t a lot of jobs floating around out there that people can go to. We know that good people who worked hard for this district will not be able to continue to be employed.”
One program on the chopping block was Phoenix II, which serves pregnant and parenting teens. One recent graduate spoke to the board to ask for their reconsideration, and several others sent letters to the board.
Central Christian Church, where the program is held, and Baby TALK, which provides the parenting classes and other assistance to those girls, provide a portion of the funding. Baby TALK provided a budget reduction proposal of its own that would cut the district’s contribution from $150,000 to $45,000, and the budget plan was altered to allow for the program to continue under altered conditions.
The Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday released a list of recent budget cuts that are affecting public schools throughout the state.
The state’s general fund allocation for preschool through 12th grade has been cut by more than $861 million since 2009. General state aid has been cut by $320.9 million, and shortfalls have meant that even the budgeted amount has been prorated so that districts don’t receive their full payments.
Transportation reimbursements have been cut by almost 40 percent, and the Early Childhood Block Grant has been cut by 21 percent, while 36 programs have been eliminated, from reading improvement to after-school programs to the rural technology initiative, school breakfast incentive program, gifted education and homeless education.