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Tentative schools budget includes 2,500 layoffs, pay cuts, larger classes

School budget cuts

KSNV coverage of presentation of tentative Clark County School District budget, March 24, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

People pack a Clark County School Board meeting Thursday, March 24, 2011, to hear details of a proposed budget that would cut $411 million from the district, resulting in layoffs, pay cuts and increased class sizes.

Carolyn Edwards

Carolyn Edwards

The mood was somber as Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, finished a presentation Thursday night at a School Board meeting.

Sitting in front of a standing-room-only crowd, Weiler served as the bearer of bad news: As part of a tentative 2012 budget, $411 million would be cut from the district and nearly 2,500 employees would lose their jobs.

The tentative budget includes a 7.8 percent reduction in salaries for all employees, a 25 percent cut in funding for textbooks and supplies, a 20 percent cut in administrative department budgets, an increase in health insurance costs for employees and an increase in class sizes by three to seven students.

“I think this is outrageous and I think there should be a swell of protest by the public,” School Board President Carolyn Edwards said of the budget developed to address education cuts in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s overall state budget proposal. Sandoval has vowed not to raise taxes.

“We have a governor who is well-intentioned, I believe. However, I think he is misguided,” Edwards said. “He has made a political promise in the campaign that he feels obligated to stick to that will devastate the education this state. We will not be able to build an economy that will sustain itself without an educated populace.”

Those attending the meeting applauded.

“You should not be allowing this to happen,” Linda Young, vice president of the board, said to the packed room. “You have a voice; you voted them in. You can vote them out. I mean, enough of this is enough. We went through this last year. What are we going to do? Go through this again next year?”

Officials said the proposed layoffs would have a ripple effect on the already struggling economy.

Applied Analysis calculated that 2,486 layoffs would translate to 5,593 jobs lost in southern Nevada, with $889 million in annual lost economic output.

“For every one position we cut, there would be a ripple effect in the economy of 2.25 people,” Weiler said. “Obviously, if we have to cut more positions in a Plan B scenario, that multiplier will go up.”

John Carr, president of the Education Support Employees Association, said he was “getting sick just sitting here.”

“I’m amazed that we’re asking for a $400 million budget cut when the governor put in the paper that he’s only asking for $200 million statewide,” he said. “Why does Clark County have to cut $400 million...when we’re one of 17 school districts?”

In addition to layoffs, the proposed budget projects class sizes would increase from 18 to 21 students on average in first and second grades, from 21 to 24 in third grade, from 30 to 35 in fourth and fifth grades, and from 32 to 39 students in grades six through 12.

“I am disgusted with the thought of having to put one more child in any single classroom,” board member Deanna Wright said. “It’s unworkable now; it’s unmanageable. You talk about people having classroom issues, well, you know what? You pile people so high, they’re not going to behave.”

Wright elicited applause from the crowd after talking about the inequity that teachers on the “bottom rung” will face from proposed pay cuts.

“We are now perpetuating the working poor,” Wright said. “You’re taking those lowest people on the rung of pay and asking them to contribute something that is potentially devastating to their families.”

Finally, Sheridan Rodrigues, an accelerated first-grader at Staton Elementary, took to the podium with his mother, Chantal Rodrigues, and pleaded with the School Board.

“Please don’t increase class size. The teachers cannot teach, and I want to go to a great university,” he said. “I love my teachers and my school and what they have taught me. Please don’t take away my teachers and class size.”

The adoption of a tentative budget will be held during a school board meeting at 8 a.m. on April 6. The State Economic Forum meets on May 2, and a meeting to adopt a final budget will be held at 5:30 p.m. May 18.

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