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State Budget Impasse Forces Schools To Cut Staff, Put Positions On Hold

State Budget Impasse Forces Schools To Cut Staff, Put Positions On Hold

Hartford Courant, August 17, 2017

By Kathleen Meegan

The state's budget impasse has forced school districts to cut dozens of staff positions and put hundreds more on hold, according to the head of the state's superintendents association.

Fran Rabinowitz, the new leader of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said she did a survey of school districts Monday to determine the effect of the state's failure to pass a budget so close to the start of school.

An analysis of the first 30 responding school districts showed that budget uncertainty resulted in the elimination of 67 positions — including teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff members — and the placement of 372 positions on hold.

Those numbers included districts that are rural, suburban and urban, Rabinowitz said, adding that if all of the state districts — about 200 including charter school districts and other specialized districts — are counted she expects that number would rise.

"In my opinion, we are in a crisis," Rabinowitz said. "If you want to open school effectively and give your people time to reflect on their assignments and prepare well for their assignment, you have to have hired people in July at the latest. ... To have those kinds of numbers on hold is very serious."

Windsor Superintendent Craig Cooke said that right now he has about 10 positions — including teachers and other staff members — on hold because of state budget uncertainty. He said the district also had to cancel summer school for up to 90 students as a result of the state budget holdup.

"It's definitely an unsettling summer in that we're not able to finalize programs and do all the maintenance projects we had hoped to perform because some of the money that we're holding is maintenance money," Cooke said. "Typically we like to have all our hiring done by August 1 and we still have positions that we're holding that we haven't even posted yet. It is difficult when the budget is not set going into summertime."

Decision coming at end of month back to top

As the budget impasse dragged on last week at the state Capitol, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that cities and towns can expect to find out this month if they'll lose education funding.

"We should give … notice to those communities that might be adversely impacted by adjustments" to education cost sharing grants by the end of August, Malloy said Friday. The first state education cost sharing grants of the year are scheduled to go out in September.

Rabinowitz said Monday: "Legislators have a lot of other things on their minds. I'm not sure they know how it works for us."

In late July, the Torrington school board voted to delay the start of the school year by three or five days. A few days after the vote, Superintendent Denise L. Clemons said deferring the school year expenses could help if the lack of a state budget creates a cash flow problem for the city. Clemons could not be reached for an update late Monday.

Rabinowitz said she's also concerned about whether the state's struggling school districts will be receiving the additional Alliance District funds they have been getting in an attempt to improve student performance.

She said the budget problems could lead to larger classes. "You could even start school and have the teachers start and in three weeks be told your [state education grant] has been cut or other funding has been cut and you may have to let that teacher go."

On Tuesday, the state will be holding it's annual back-to-school gathering for superintendents. Rabinowitz said "a call to action to get an adequate education budget passed" will be launched after the meeting during a news conference organized by the superintendents association, the state school board association, and several other education advocacy groups, as well as the state's teachers unions.