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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fulton County Schools Teachers Lose Jobs

ATLANTA, Ga. -- The severe cash shortage affecting every child in every public school in Georgia hits Fulton County Thursday night.
The school board plans to vote on deep cuts to teachers and programs that are dear to students and parents.
But some of the cuts to the 2010-2011 school year budget may not be as deep as first feared.
As of Wednesday, the projected budget deficit was about $114 million. That's down from what it was about two weeks ago when it was projected to be $140 million. Then, a week ago, it was projected to be about $120 million.
"It's a moving target," and subject to changing again, said Fulton County Schools Spokeswoman Allison Toller.
Which means that, as of now, the school board is no longer planning to cut about 1,000 positions -- half of them teacher positions -- but something just under that number.
"Positions, not jobs," said Toller, since not all of those positions are currently filled; and with retirements and resignations, she said, the board's budget will figure on more of those positions being vacant in the next several weeks, which could reduce the number of people who will have to be laid off.
"We're estimating that there may be about 450 actual job losses" prior to the new school year, Toller said. She did not know how many of those would be teachers.
Also because of the smaller projected deficit, Toller said there will not be a 50 percent cut to the ranks of school psychologists, social workers and instructional support personnel. The cut, she said, would be around 25 percent.
And Toller said there are no longer any plans to eliminate one resource officer (police officer) at each school.
But still on the chopping block is the popular, $4 million band and orchestra program at the elementary schools that serves more than 8,000 students.
Students set up a Facebook group, "Save the Fulton County Music Program.
There were more than 2,500 members Wednesday. They have an on-line petition with more than 4,100 signatures, so far.
And there are comments about the cuts, like, "This is madness, insanity." And "Music is power."
But there are other comments, like -- save the basic core curriculum first.
School Board Member Ashley Widener is one of the members who wants to save band and orchestra, but doesn't know how.
"It has been proven to affect math and science scores. It has been proven to keep kids out of trouble," Widener said at last week's school board meeting.
But elementary school principals unanimously agreed with Superintendent Cindy Loe to back her recommendation to cut band and orchestra in order to save other programs that they place higher on their priority lists.
Loe is proposing an extra-curricular band and orchestra program, instead, that parents would pay extra to have their children attend, "An after-school band and orchestra program to be available at every school, where it can be self-supporting."
The cuts that the school board is likely to make to personnel Thursday night will total about $65 million.
That would get the shortfall down to about $49 million.
In the next few weeks the school board may consider a property tax hike of perhaps one mil, to raise about $26 million to $28 million.
The board is then likely to make non-personnel cuts to such areas as technology, infrastructure and supplies to make up the rest of the shortfall.
The Fulton County School Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, but not at school board headquarters. The meeting will be at Dunwoody Springs Charter Elementary School, 8100 Roberts Drive, Sandy Springs


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