TUSD OKs cuts, looks to outsource

Board to boost class sizes slightly in effort to close $17M budget gap
2013-01-31T00:00:00Z 2013-01-31T21:58:33Z TUSD OKs cuts, looks to outsourceJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Unified School District will eliminate an estimated 19 teachers, 10 assistant principals and an undetermined number of counselors, librarians and administrative workers to help close a $17 million budget gap.

Starting next year, classrooms will be a little more crowded as the TUSD Governing Board voted 3-2 late Tuesday night to increase class sizes by one student for fourth through 12th grades, reducing the need for as many teachers. Current class standards for those grades are one teacher per 29 to 32 students, depending on the grade level.

Yousef Awwad, the district's chief financial officer, said the number of positions that will be eliminated is still preliminary.

Board member Kristel Ann Foster cast the lone dissenting vote.

The cuts are expected to save the district an additional $10 million.

The meeting featured a lengthy debate over the increase in class sizes. Most of the board members disagreed with the idea, but ultimately voted for it after acknowledging they had little choice in ways to balance the budget.

The board also unanimously voted to allow the district to examine the option of outsourcing human resources and other services such as payroll, transportation, ground maintenance and custodians in an effort to save more money.

Awwad said the exact number of positions to be cut still has to be determined.

The board did not vote for specific position cuts, but rather a revision to the resource allocation formula that specifies a certain number of assistant principals, librarian assistants and other positions at each school.

The new formula means fewer of those positions will be authorized for each school.

For example, an elementary school with 525 students would now be authorized one assistant principal. The new formula requires 610 students before the school qualifies for an assistant principal, Awwad said.

It is possible some of those assistant principals, and other workers, could take other jobs within the school district, he said.

Tuesday's meeting was the first time district administrators presented specific recommendations to the Governing Board for closing the remainder of the budget deficit.

Last month, the TUSD board approved the closing of 11 schools, but the closures would reduce the deficit by only $4.2 million.

The remaining deficit forced the school district to mull other options, many of which were discussed or approved Tuesday night.

Foster was concerned about how many teacher positions the district would eliminate.

"We've told parents that your students will be going with their teachers, but that's not true. We know that's not always going to happen," Foster said.

Although most of the board disagreed with the idea of raising the number of students in each class, some were willing to increase classes to varying degrees.

The original proposal called for increasing class sizes by one student at every grade except for second grade.

However, board member Mark Stegeman proposed keeping the same class sizes at kindergarten through third grade while increasing the levels at fourth through 12th grade, which the board approved.

Stegeman referred to the board's decision as a "defining moment" for the school district and its image in the community.

"I feel very confident that we can realistically get to that $17 million in a reasonable way and not increase the classes sizes at K through three," Stegeman said.

Board member Cam Juarez shared the sentiment.

"It seems like one extra student in the classroom, but it really isn't. It's a slippery slope," Juarez said. "Increasing class sizes by one puts the onus on the teachers, puts the onus on parents like myself."

On StarNet: Find more education and TUSD news and resources at azstarnet.com/education

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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