10/18/2011 10:30:00 PMCleveland school officials take questions, hear venting over proposed $13 million in cuts
October 18, 2011
By Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland school district's attempt to gather community input Tuesday on $13 million in cuts it will make drew tears, anger and a stream of questions from parents.
About 75 residents at a meeting at East Technical High School, then 100 at Lincoln-West High School, heard schools chief Eric Gordonoutline reasons for the district's $13.2 million deficit and his choices for wiping it out.
Likely cuts include the district's preschool program, summer school, busing for high school students and many sports and extracurricular activities.
Gordon's proposed cuts total a little more than $13.3 million, which prompted a few parents to question why they were even being asked for feedback when there really weren't any options to pick from. At the meetings, through online questions and in telephone surveys, the district is asking residents to rank each of the likely cuts.
"I understand cuts," said Joyce Hood at the East Tech meeting. "But I don't think we need this dog-and-pony show. We know it's done."
Gordon said the survey responses will be tallied and used to guide choices where there is leeway or where money becomes available later.
Hood objected to cutting busing, which will force students to walk several miles, even in the winter, to schools that penalize or kick them out if they are late or absent too often.
Others objected to cutting pre-school, calling it crucial to students, and one crying at the thought of preschool ending for her son. One parent complained that private pre-schools are already filled so there will be no place for children to go.
Coaches and parents said that cutting sports will hurt because many children need that outlet.
"It seems like you're taking the most important things from our students," said parent Sabrina Luster Thomas.
Gordon said several times that he does not want to make any of the cuts, but has no choice.
The district's questionnaire can be found at www.cmsdnet.net. The district has also placed automated telephone calls to parents this week, 2,700 of whom have answered the questions.
In Gordon's presentations, he said a cut of $14.5 million in state aid and the $23.5 million cost of rehiring 300 teachers this fall wiped out the $24.8 million surplus the district surplus expected in May and led to its $13.2 million deficit.
Gordon has said the district had counted on teachers and other employees agreeing to wage concessions to keep the number of teachers up and still balance the budget. Though Gordon cannot discuss ongoing negotiations with the Cleveland Teachers Union, he has said that if teachers agreed to the same pay cuts they took last school year, but which snapped back to previous pay levels this year, it would wipe out the deficit.
The district on Tuesday denied a public records request by The Plain Dealer for written contract offers between the sides, saying the teachers wouldn't allow it. Full story