School leaders meet with state delegates

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The county faces a 30-million dollar shortfall next year, school and county leaders just wrapped a meeting with state delegates. The next stop tonight...a community hearing.

They want residents to take this 30-million dollar shortfall seriously as it will affect teachers and students.

"We know that it will have an impact on the classroom, on our employees, and on the community," said Shawn Smith, Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Its crunch time for Chesterfield County Public Schools.

"We're estimating right now a funding shortfall of between $20 and $30 million for the fy2011 budget," said Smith.

With the current budget already shaved thin, a shortfall of another 30-million is a devastating blow because 80% of the budget goes to employee compensation.

"If we're looking at another $25-$30 million it's not that difficult to connect the dots, it is going to be jobs this time around," said Frank Cardella, Chesterfield Education Association.

Frank Cardella is rallying his troops: teachers to speak up at every given opportunity.

"Everyone wants teachers, the most high-quality teachers in the classroom. Teachers are supported in their work by aides and administrators. So it's not like you can pit one group against the other, we need the whole system to function properly if we want to give kids the best education," said Cardella.

Last year, 20-million in stimulus dollars saved 278 jobs.

"If we're down $30 million this year, that's a good place to start," he said.

Shawn Smith, with the school district, says every option is a possibility and for the first time, a consultant is right now evaluating costs.

"This year we have a concern looking forward about being able to protect and to preserve those jobs and also to protect the integrity of the classroom," Smith said.

Today, the school board urged state lawmakers to consider Chesterfield County when evaluating the state's budget in January. About 60,000 students, 4,000 teachers and thousands of support staff are on the line.

"No decisions have been made.  Everything is on the table," Smith said.

"It's a crisis. We really are looking at back-to-back years of $30 million in the hole. That's not something that you can shake off lightly," said Cardella.

In January the superintendent will submit a budget to the school board after getting figures from local, state and federal government. The school board will then approve it and send it to the county.

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