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Duval County Public Schools May Get Unexpected Funds to Close Budget Gap

5:38 PM, May 27, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nearly 100 employees of the Duval school District will be cut in an effort to close the district's budget gap, and employee furloughs appear to be possible to balance the budget.

The Duval County Public Schools Board and Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals worked today to find $34 million to cut out of it's budget  by creating a list of nine possible cuts.  Furloughs were added as the 9th item.

The board did ask the Superintendent to look for other ways to save money and reduce the furloughs.

The board was trying to find at least $8 million more in savings today. The district is facing a projected $91 million shortfall as funding from the state has been cut. 

The list of recommendations includes laying off 95 staff members to save $7.8 million. Thirty-five of those would be from the maintenance department. The other cuts would be made in the technology and general services departments.

To ease the burden of slashing the budget, Pratt-Dannals said the district should get $6 million in Title I funds to be used as the district sees fit. Today, the board recommended that $500,000 be used to restore five academic coaches and $2 million would limit furlough days.  The board reduced teacher furlough days from four to three.

Discontinuing certain sports like golf and cross country, and cutting magnet school transportation remain on the list.

Twelve-month employees would have six furlough days, while 10-month employees would have three furlough days, saving $9 million.

On Thursday, student runners took to the streets of downtown Jacksonville to draw attention to the board's decision to axe 10 varsity sports programs to save money.

Pratt-Dannals said he will know in the next few weeks if DCPS will receive the Title I money. 

He called the cuts "sheer pain."  He added "there are no good choices here." 

" I don't feel good about today," said Board Chairman W.C Gentry. "But we did what we had to do. We asked the superintendent to go back and with a sharp pencil try and see if he can come up with more items to be cut. These items are going to hurt our schools, but we've asked him to go and cut more so e don;t have to furlough our teachers."

School air conditioner repairs, computer repairs and other maintenance items may take longer with the cuts. There will be less support for teachers with cuts to academic support employees.

Board member Betty Burney labeled the cuts ridiculous. She asked board members and parents to lobby for a special session in Tallahassee, and have lawmakers take the money saved through Governor Scott's vetoes on Thursday and return it to public education.

"Poeple are going to walk out of here in three weeks without jobs," said Duval Teachers United President Terrie Brady. "People need to know this board has not been crying wolf and frankly everybody in this community needs to go back to the Duval legislative delegation and hold them accountable as to why we are having to stack our students deep and teach them cheap, and why we are losing jobs because they would not step up and properly fund public education."


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