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Proposed Job, Program Cuts Outlined for State College Schools

on April 09, 2011 4:15 PM

In-car driver's education would be gone. So would intramural sports from the elementary schools on up to State High.

Latin classes at the high school would be phased out, too. Two elementary-level librarians would see the elimination of their positions. Many paraprofessional jobs across the school district would be cut. Four full-time positions in special education would be dropped.

At the elementary level, the option for free summer school -- to help underachieving students -- would be axed. (Nearly 200 children were enrolled in that program last summer alone.)

All of these proposed cost reductions -- and many others -- are included in administration-approved plans to go before the State College Area school board on Monday night.

The proposals reach from the State College district's central administration to the high school and middle and elementary schools. Community Education efforts also could be affected, including through a proposal for higher class-registration fees and a staffing reduction.

In all, it appears the proposals would achieve more than $3 million in cost savings as the district faces an anticipated budget shortfall of $4.6 million to $8.3 million for 2011-2012. More than 40 positions would be directly and heavily affected, many of them eliminated through layoffs or attrition budget models. Others would see altered workloads and furloughs. At least a dozen programs would be altered.

Add in a salary freeze -- an idea that's not yet been decided -- and the district could save roughly $2 million more, budget documents suggest.

"This is a process none of us have been through before. We're kind of learning as we go," board President Ann McGlaughlin said at the March 28 board meeting. " ... These are not things we ever really anticipated we would have to be dealing with, but we're trying to deal with them as honestly as we can, as fairly as we can and in as forward-thinking a manner" as we can.

District leaders have said they'll attempt to minimize impacts on the classroom as they navigate a dire budget outlook. The district is facing near-stagnant growth in property-tax revenue, state-imposed limits on tax increases and a $3.5 million expected reduction in state and federal support.

At the same time, increases in some unavoidable costs -- such as pension obligations and health care -- have added to the district's fiscal challenges, school leaders have said. They already have held open 18 positions in the current school year, and furloughs appear all but certain as one cost-cutting method in '11-'12, they've said.

Below is an overview of some specific proposed cuts to be introduced before the school board on Monday night. The summaries here are based on district budget documents. Many of the suggested curricular changes can be achieved with minimal disruption, thanks to falling enrollments in certain programmatic categories, those budget documents show.

  • Elimination of elementary-, middle- and high-school-level intramural sports including swimming, flag football, basketball, volleyball, skiing, track and field, martial arts, badminton, cross-country, bowling, field hockey, softball, lacrosse and volleyball. Overall annual savings are expected in the range of $210,000.
  • Elimination of several districtwide positions, including the director of education (126,000); the carpentry supervisor ($50,000); the coordinator of elementary curriculum in math, science, social studies and language arts ($101,000); the development specialist in private fundraising ($65,000); the central-office receptionist ($30,000); the network-systems manager ($90,000); and the part-time assistant athletic director ($38,000). A number of those position cuts can be achieved through retirements and attrition, budget documents show.
  • A variety of staffing reductions and programming changes at State College Area High School. They would include the elimination of one position apiece in earth science, English, physical education, math and the in-school-suspension program, for a savings of $320,000. (Most of those positions are being vacated through retirements this year, anyway, district documents show.) A number of State High paraprofessionals -- support-staff employees -- would be laid off for a savings of $80,000.
  • Elimination of in-car driver's education at State High. Savings would amount to more than $200,000 a year. "State College is the founder of driver's education in the country," a budget document reads. "Elimination of this program would strike the very core of the history of the school."
  • Additional programming and staffing reductions at State High, including the elimination of a STEM program-coordinator job and the losses of a social-studies position and a technical-education position. A music elective -- focused on the guitar -- would be eliminated, too. Several less-popular art-class offerings would be cut, including those in silk screening, etching and lithography. Several sections of Spanish would be cut as enrollment dips; programming in automotive technology would be reduced, along with that in early-childhood education, agricultural sciences, family and consumer sciences (formerly home economics) and engineering technology. Latin classes would be phased out.
  • Targeted cuts at the middle-school level, including the elimination of two library-based paraprofessional jobs ($20,000), an instructional-support teaching job ($50,000) and four instructional-support paraprofessional jobs ($40,000).
  • Elimination of the free summer-school option for kindergarten students through fifth-graders. District data are inconclusive as to the overall effectiveness of the program, district budget documents show. Cutting the program, which served 196 students in 2010, would save $40,000. Students may be able to enroll in fee-based programs in Community Education as an alternative, budget documents show.
  • Removal of $155,000 in extra pay granted to those designated as "team leaders" at the elementary level.
  • Removal of $18,000 in extra pay granted to elementary-level music directors for holding instrumental-music rehearsals in the morning.
  • Elimination of two elementary-level school-librarian positions for a savings of $100,000. Paraprofessional-and-secretarial work at Boalsburg's elementary school would be reduced for a savings of $40,000, and a Title I teaching position -- to be vacated through a retirement -- would be eliminated for savings of $80,000.
  • Elimination of three nurse paraprofessional jobs at the elementary level for savings of $51,600.
  • Elimination of four full-time and one half-time special-education teaching positions for a savings of $368,543.

More complete details and explanations of the proposed cuts are available through the State College Area School District's website. Go to this page and click on "attachment V-E" for a PDF download.

StateCollege.com will have more complete coverage in the coming days. A community meeting on the budget proposals, including a district presentation and an opportunity for public comment, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Mount Nittany Middle School auditorium, 656 Brandywine Drive, State College.

The school board is not scheduled to finalize its '11-'12 budget until June. The Monday board meeting, at the district administration building at 131 W. Nittany Ave., State College, will be open to the public. It will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be carried live on CETV (Channel 98) on local cable.

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