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District imperiled by $100 million deficit« Thread Started o

Daily newsbrief journal for June 2004, also see for a global 100-page perpetual brief and follow twitter @usdemocrats

District imperiled by $100 million deficit« Thread Started o

Postby admin » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:18 am

District imperiled by $100 million deficit« Thread Started on Jun 5, 2004, 2:01pm »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------District imperiled by $100 million deficitFriday, June 4, 2004 Posted: 12:02 PM EDT (1602 GMT) ... index.html Cleveland school employees, many who may lose their jobs wear yellow caution tape to warn of cutting staff too deeply.CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) -- In his 24 years with Cleveland's school system, math teacher Gene Tracy has taken the good with the bad: improved test scores and attendance amid crumbling buildings, outdated textbooks and students who lag behind their peers.He's stayed, mostly because of passion but also because of progress. A tax levied since 1996 gave Ohio's largest school district the cash to make those desperately needed improvements.But this spring, the Cleveland district faced a sobering reality: There was no more money.State budget cuts and a drop in tax collections created a $100 million deficit.To close the gap, school district leaders are proposing deep cuts, including 1,400 jobs, most of them teaching posts. If the school board approves, the district may delay textbook purchases, cancel summer school and drop football, baseball and club activities. The next board meeting is June 15."It's going to devastate the school," said Tracy, who teaches at Lincoln West High School. "It sends a message to the kids that they're not valuable."Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett cried at an April board meeting as she announced that the budget had to be slashed. In a May interview, she said "I try to keep a stiff upper lip. But the fact of the matter is, it's devastating."Molly Burke, a researcher for the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, said Cleveland is not alone in facing such financial problems."State-level cuts trickle down, but there are other factors," she said. "Sometimes districts take on more ambitious projects in good times and make progress, then lose local tax money and state money."Predominantly poorCritics of charter and voucher programs say losing those students and their state funding has contributed to the budget worries. Cleveland is a diverse city of 478,000 people which is surrounded by more affluent suburbs, often with better schools.People who can afford to leave the city or send their children to private schools usually do. As a result, 99 percent of the 69,000 students in the Cleveland Municipal School District are poor. Link to Post - Back to Top botAdministratormember is offline Joined: Nov 2004Posts: 4,324Re: District imperiled by $100 million deficit« Reply #1 on Jun 5, 2004, 2:02pm »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ohio Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton said a downturn in the economy has strained state finances, but the department will advocate for schools in the state budget.The potential for cutbacks in sports and other activities worries parents and others, since the affected students live in some of the city's highest crime areas."That's going to make them sell dope," said Tawanda Morman, who has two children in elementary school. "They won't have anything else to do."Lovetta Freeman has two teenage sisters in the city school system. "I feel my money should be dedicated to these kids," she said. "I don't want their futures to be messed up."Freeman said the city schools have given poor children hope for a better life. "The system was getting a little bit better until all these cuts," she said.Tests and taxesThe tax voters approved in 1996, a year after a federal judge gave the state emergency control of the school district, allowed the district to pay down debt, buy new books and fix buildings. Students slowly started doing better.Students' 2002-03 state proficiency test scores improved enough to move Cleveland from the lowest-ranking "academic emergency" status for the first time into a slightly better "academic watch" category. Teacher Gene Tracy angrily condemns the Cleveland School Board for proposed staff cuts. There's still work to do. The district averaged 59.1 percent on state fourth-grade reading exams, often used as a benchmark for measuring academic performance, while the state average was 66.3 percent. And the district's improvement did not meet the state's standard of "adequate yearly progress" in 2002-03.When the budget cuts were announced, some residents and media said the schools had wasted money. Auditors found no major irregularities, but questioned the use of about $45,000 for student award programs and asked for more information on about $20,000 in expenses.Byrd-Bennett, who has lead city schools since 1998, said using some district money for travel and other expenses helped her attract millions of dollars in grants.She's offered to give up an upcoming raise and bonus that's expected to be similar to last year's 3 percent raise and $54,000 bonus. Byrd-Bennett, whose base salary is $278,000, has donated some of her previous bonus pay to charity.The district is considering putting a tax increase on the November ballot. And Byrd-Bennett is attending town hall meetings, listening to comments and ideas from folks like Tracy, the math teacher."I have to be hopeful," Byrd-Bennett said. "It's part of the work I do. Otherwise, I'd be walking around with a bucket of tears."
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