The Scotland County Board of Education has approved a sizable cut to teacher assistant salaries in addition to planned layoffs of 25 TAs and other school personnel.
Jay Toland, school finance officer, presented a list of cuts to the system’s budget during this week’s board meeting that incorporated nearly $1 million of lost state funding and totalled $2.15 million in cuts.
The $955,000 in state cuts included $150,000 cut from school building administration, $156,000 from low-wealth funding, and $427,000 from salaries to second grade teaching assistants.
The schools will save over $500,000 by eliminating bookkeeping, custodial, and finance positions, as well as redesigning the Twilight Success Academy that gives students who have dropped out of high school an opportunity to come back and earn a diploma. Moving that program from Scotland High School to Shaw Academy will bring savings of $150,000.
“What happens now is teachers tutor after their normal workday, now we’re going to exercise some flex scheduling and move it out to Shaw where we can still offer that service but at a substantially lower cost,” Toland said.
The brunt of the cuts, however, will fall on teaching assistants, with 25 to be laid off in accordance with the board’s reduction in force policy. Including retirees and those TAs on temporary contracts, 44 TA positions will be eliminated.
The TAs to be laid off will be selected primarily by seniority.
“There’s a number of variables that go into that from when they entered into it, if they have a bus driver license, evaluations, and those types of things,” said Superintendent Rick Stout. “It’s a rubric that we use that’s very detailed. It’s not in any way a whim, we just go by the rubric and what the rubric tells us, that’s the way those people are chosen as the ones who are reduction in force.”
After having their salaries reinstated at 100 percent in 2012, teaching assistants will again face pay cuts. For the upcoming school year TA hours will be cut to seven and a half hours per day and 166 days in the year, the exact length of time that students are in class, plus 10 annual leave days and 11 holidays.
This reduction in work time from eight hours a day will bring TAs to 82 percent of their base salary.
“A couple of years ago we did 88 percent, but to really bring us in line with our budget we needed to move it to 82 percent,” Toland said.
After an hour spent in executive session, the board returned to open session and passed the personnel modifications unanimously. Stout said that the board’s past use of fund balance and federal funds to maintain the status quo is not a sustainable model.
“It’s been very difficult to look to see how many positions we’ve been supporting over the years that we can’t support anymore,” he said. “We’ve lost over $12 million in the past five years just in support from the state… We’re trying to make our voices heard up there, but they’re not hearing us very clearly in terms of how it’s impacting public education. I’m a big supporter of public education, but we’re declining in terms of the support and foundation that we have. But we’re going to go on and continue to do the very best we can. And they know that, they know that we’re going to do the best job we can for our children, but the people who are hurt are people that we care about.”
The board also approved a reapplication for $300,000 in education lottery funds unused during the 2012-2013 school year. That money will enable renovations to the an auxiliary building on the Shaw Academy campus as well as expansion of the Covington Street Elementary School parking lot and replacement of the roof at Washington Park Elementary School. The latter two items were previously stricken from the schools’ capital budget for this year.