Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fire Teachers Because of Decreasing Enrollment

Now here's an interesting argument.

The town of North Kingstown, RI, has voted against three separate tax hikes and budget amendments, and voted yesterday on whether to cut $1.3 million from the school budget.

They voted against it, thankfully.

I think this properly displays the fortitude and forward-mindedness of those in North Kingstown who didn't want to see any more cuts from their budget. The school budget for next year is already smaller than it is for this year, and with no raise halts in place, 16 teachers were notified in April that they were being laid off. The school committee was able to save money by reorganizing the middle schools in the town, thus being able to eliminate a crossing guard/bus monitor position, 1 position each in ELA, Social Studies, Science, Math, PE & Health, Art, and Media Center/Library. They were then able to eliminate a .75 secretary, three special educators (after moving most special ed students to the other school), a vice principal, a janitor, and three teacher's aides (that's 16, right?). In addition, the foreign language program at the high school level was slightly trimmed.

A town councilman voted to slim the budget even further because, as he protested, the school is highly overstaffed due to a decrease in enrollment each year for the past 15 years. His vote would have eliminated an additional 9 full-time teaching positions, it would have done away with an entire year of foreign language offering at the high school level, it would have nearly obliterated middle school sports, and would have put resources and staffing at an all-time low.

I conducted some research and found the overall school enrollment in North Kingstown has decreased by 150 students from 2003-2008, and, assuming this average has been followed for the preceding 10 years, 450 fewer students attend North Kingstown Public Schools today than in, roughly, 1994.

It seems like it would be a very tough argument to convince the taxpayers and parents of the town that because the schools lose, on average, 30 students each year, that 27 teachers and administrators should be laid off for the upcoming school year. Assuming this councilman is using the worst-case scenario and there have been no teachers retiring, hired or fired since 1994, and he really wants to present the argument for over-staffing, then each teacher in this school district, would only be in charge of roughly 15 students. I'm not so sure you can make the overstaffing call based solely on that assumption because I doubt there is any school district in the US where each teacher, elementary, middle and/or secondary (including principals and special subject instructors) only have 15 or fewer students.

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