In order to keep their budgets under the new 2 percent cap on the tax levy, schools across the state have been slashing staff, sports, extracurricular activities, maintenance, transportation and elective courses, according to a survey of more than 400 school districts by the state School Boards Association and the state Association of School Business Officials.
The groups found that 64 percent of districts plan to cut teaching positions in the upcoming school year. Based on the responses from 403 school districts, the associations estimate that the roughly 700 districts in the state will eliminate 4,263 jobs. That includes teachers and non-instructional staff.
“School leaders are taking extraordinary steps to keep their budgets in line with the tax levy cap,” Timothy Kremer, executive director of the School Boards Association, said in a statement. “They are negotiating salary freezes, sharing administrators, and outsourcing services. But that isn’t always enough.”
The groups also found that 64 percent of districts plan to cut teaching jobs and 66 percent expect to reduce non-teaching positions in the 2012-13 school year. Roughly 25 percent of districts cut more than 20 teaching posts in the past two budget years, and some reduced their teaching staff by more than 100 positions.
“The survey of our members clearly indicates that school districts have overwhelmingly complied with the spirit of the tax cap, unfortunately to the detriment of their educational mission and financial stability,” Michael Borges, executive director of the Association of School Business Officials, said in a statement.
The associations are asking state officials to reduce state-mandated programs and services, including repealing requirements for school districts to pay employee salary hikes after a contract has expired and reducing the number of state special-education requirements, which are more extensive than federal requirements.
Other findings include:
— Fifty-three percent of school districts will increase class sizes in 2012-13 because of staff reductions.
— Forty percent of schools plan to cut electives and extracurricular activities, including sports.
— Roughly 25 percent of districts will slash programs that give extra help to students.
— Thirty percent of districts will reduce pupil transportation, which means longer bus rides for students.
— Almost all districts plan to draw from reserve funds — a total of $1.3 billion statewide and an average of nearly $2 million per district — to help minimize their tax levies in the upcoming school year. Reserves have already been depleted due to cuts in state funding in recent years, the report said.