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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools has handed out 41 pink slips -- and a declining budget and stalled federal funding are to blame.
The district blames the teacher layoffs on budget cuts, federal spending reductions, and a loss in stimulus funds. Although the local teachers union recognizes that the cuts are out of JCPS' hands, officials worry about the implications.
"We need teachers in the classroom, and we certainly don't need less teachers in the classroom," said James Hughley, Deputy Executive Director of the Jefferson County Teachers Association.
He says teacher reductions usually mean bigger class sizes, which he says is detrimental to learning.
"It's always a concern that if there are fewer teachers in the classroom, then class sizes are larger," said Hughley.
But Jefferson County Public Schools say the cuts are largely beyond their control. In addition, school officials say they hire new teachers every year. According to Tiffeny Gerstner, from August 2012 last year to March 2013 this year, the district has hired 353 teachers.
"It is unusual for us to actually have to lay off teachers," she said.
Teachers affected are those with the least seniority, as prescribed by state law. The district announced the layoffs on Wednesday.
It will be the largest layoff in nearly a decade, with officials saying the cuts were made in areas where they were overstaffed. They claim class sizes should not change.
"Student achievement is our Number One priority, and we are going to make certain that on the first day of school every student has a teacher there to serve them," said Gerstner.
Special Education teachers accounted for about half of the cuts.
"All of our students who need to receive special education services, will be serviced by a special ed teacher," said Gerstner. "We simply, right now today based on our projections, have too many of those teachers."
The district simply says there are less special education students, and more are being moved to regular classrooms.
"Our schools and our teachers are doing an excellent job of serving those students -- making sure they get on grade level and that they get what they need without having to be identified as special education students," said Gerstner.
But the Jefferson County Teachers Association sees these cuts as detrimental.
"Students need those teachers, the school district needs those teachers, and teachers need to be in the classroom teaching their students," said Hughley.
If more money becomes available, or more teachers retire, there is still a chance that these teachers will be hired back before the end of summer.
"We feel very positive that we will be able to recall the majority of these teachers back," said Gerstner.
In addition, 114 teachers have been notified that they are on an "overstaffed" list, which means they could be transferred from their current school to fill vacancies elsewhere.