Midstate schools bracing for more cuts

Middle Georgia teachers should expect more furloughs this fall and, in some cases, fewer school days for students.

Now that the 2010 state General Assembly is history, Middle Georgia school officials are waiting for details on the final 2011 state budget, which earmarks less money for public schools.

The state expects to spend about $6.9 billion on the Department of Education. The state’s per-student spending for the upcoming school year, when factoring in inflation costs, will be at the lowest level in a decade, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

The funding shortfall means that school systems will have larger class sizes, fewer resources and fewer bodies in school buildings come August.

School systems are sorting out their fiscal 2011 budgets, which start July 1.

“We are waiting on the final budget figures from Atlanta,” Jones County school Superintendent Mike Newton said Thursday. “However, we have a projected budget deficit of $3 million to $4 million, based on our estimates.”

Jones County aims to reduce that amount through employee attrition and reducing the number of work days for employees.

Over the summer, the system is also considering a four-day workweek.

Dodge County schools Superintendent Darrel May said the system’s school board approved a reduction in force plan Tuesday to eliminate three positions per school, if need be.

That proposal would eliminate a total of 12 positions at the schools, plus the elimination of 12 classified positions, since the system expects to get hit with up to $2 million in state cuts.

“I certainly hope we don’t have to deprive anyone of their job, but it is a strong possibility,” May said.

Dodge students will also attend schools 170 days this coming school year, while teachers will work 180 days, 10 days fewer than a typical year.

Monroe County schools Superintendent Anthony Pack said Thursday that he has recommended that the school board leave a middle school graduation coach position and elementary assistant principal position vacant and continue to make further cuts.

“I am sure we will have more information once the budget is approved and signed in Atlanta and we see how local school systems are impacted by reductions,” Pack said.

Bibb County school officials said last month that they expect millions in state cuts. To compensate, Bibb officials are considering cutting about 50 teaching positions, furloughing teachers and employees, having larger class sizes, and giving no state salary increases for certified personnel this fall.

Peach County school officials have already said the school system will continue its four-day school week to save money unless drastic changes in student test scores are reported in the next few months as a result of the modified school calendar.

Houston County school board members approved a plan this month to cut 80 classified jobs to save about $4 million. They are also considering cutting about 100 teaching and administrative positions, some through attrition.

Crawford County school officials said they expect a $1.5 million reduction for the coming school year. School officials held a work session Monday and recommended eliminating two graduation coach positions, making changes in some employee benefits, employee furloughs, leaving vacant a transportation position and technology position, and reducing three custodial positions.

Crawford County school system spokesman Trey Seagraves said no decision has been made about moving toward a four-day school week or adopting an alternative school calendar.

“It is still on the table,” he said.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.