JCPS scales back budget proposal to increase class sizes at some - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS scales back budget proposal to increase class sizes at some schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A new Jefferson County Public Schools proposal appears to scale back on an initial plan to increase class sizes by as many as three students, but could still mean less teachers at some schools.

The proposal, unveiled to principals on Saturday and shared with WDRB on Sunday evening, will be discussed with the Jefferson County Board of Education during a work session on Monday and could potentially shift 90 teachers to other programs and schools that are in need of greater support.

The new proposal would keep the district's teacher funding allocation capped at one teacher per 24 students in grades K-3, but it would increase by one student across all other grades.

Fourth and fifth grade allocations would increase from 24-1 to 25-1, while sixth through twelfth grades would increase from 28-1 to 29-1.

Officials say increasing the class size by one student in 4-12th grade classrooms would mean about $5.5 million in teaching resources that could be used elsewhere, although Superintendent Donna Hargens has maintained that the goal of the proposal is not to save money, but to "deploy teachers where we need them the most."

The new funding allocations would not impact every school. Broken down by level it would mean:

  • 22.5 fewer teaching positions at 43 of the district's 91 elementary schools, with most of those schools losing half of a teacher's position.
  • 27.5 fewer teachers at each of the district's 21 middle schools. Bigger schools such as Crosby and Meyzeek would lose as many as two teachers each.
  • 40.7 fewer teachers at each of the district's 20 high schools. Bigger schools such as Atherton, Butler, Eastern, Male and Manual would lose 2.5 teachers and Ballard and Moore would lose three teachers.

Officials say the reductions don't necessarily mean the schools will lose teachers, just the funding that is associated with those positions and that the schools can try to find savings elsewhere.

For example, under this plan, Ballard would lose approximately $186,000 -- the equivalent of three teaching positions.

JCPS chief business officer Tom Hudson told WDRB News on Wednesday the district is asking its principals to "let us know" which programs are working and which ones could potentially be eliminated.

"The goal is to have lower class sizes," Hudson said. "We want to put more resources into the classroom. If you don’t want increased class sizes, give us an idea of what else we can cut."

Aside from the teaching allocation cuts, the district is also proposing to cut $2 million in flexible funds schools can use on materials and other operational costs and the district's elementary school counselors would work fewer days -- instead of having seven additional work days, they would have four -- a cost savings of $150,700.

The district is also considering eliminating assistant principals at elementary schools with smaller enrollments. That proposal is still under discussion, according to Bonnie Hackbarth, a district spokeswoman.

According to data pulled by WDRB, if JCPS were to eliminate assistant principals at the 51 elementary schools that have less than 500 students, it could save approximately $4.5 million. If the district were to eliminate assistant principals at the 11 elementary schools that have less than 400 students, it could save approximately $1 million.

The district's initial proposal, discussed at a school board work session last month, could have shifted as many as 280 teachers.

This revision means less of a shift, Hackbarth said.

Each school's 2016-17 budget will be based on the enrollment projections and Hudson said those projections are not complete.

Principals are expected to receive their school's allocation on Feb. 2 and Hudson said they will have until Feb. 17 to alert the district "if they think something is wrong."

In his interview with WDRB, Hudson said "in some fashion, we will be giving them less money than they have had in the past."

"It will cause them to be more frugal in the beginning," Hudson said. "They can come back and ask for additional money, but they will need to bring their data."

If the district changes its funding formula, schools and their site-based councils could lose the flexibility to staff classes as they see fit.

Principals and parents at several JCPS schools have told WDRB they are concerned about losing important positions and programs at their schools.

Many say they plan on attending Monday night's school board meeting to tell board members about the impact it would have on their schools.

The current year's budget is $1.4 billion, with $1.1 billion being funded by the general fund.

The 2016-17 draft budget will be up for school board approval on Jan. 26.

District-level meetings with Hargens and her staff will take place through April, which is when new budget requests, if any, are added to the tentative budget which be up for board approval in May.

The final working budget is not expected to be approved until September.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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