Superintendents fear "Doomsday Budget"

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Education in Virginia is about to undergo a dramatic change. That's the message from school superintendents, who fear a "doomsday budget" being crafted at the state capitol.

School superintendents from all over the commonwealth met at the Library of Virginia Tuesday. They hope to save jobs and programs, but it may already be too late.

"Unfortunately, with a cut this deep, you cannot stay away from the classroom," said Hanover Superintendent Stewart Roberson.

In Hanover the district faces an $18 million shortfall. Proposed cuts include 50 teachers, and 121 other positions.

"I would like to think that through attrition and retirement possibilities that we can assure that everybody has a job next year who wants one, but I can't guarantee that right now," he said.

Hanover is not alone. According to a survey, 88% of Virginia schools are looking at cutting teachers, 75% may cut administrators, and 46% may have to lose incentive programs.

"It's gonna impact every single level of our education system," said Shawn Smith, spokesman for Chesterfield public schools.

Chesterfield schools face a budget hole of up to $50 million with the majority of money going toward payroll. Layoffs are likely.

"It will mean a difference in the classroom, larger class sizes. It'll mean the difference between some of the courses their child is able to take. And so they're gonna see a direct impact," said Smith.

In Henrico the gap is $16 million. Class size may go up slightly. Actual layoffs are being avoided for now.

"While we believe we will have some position losses, we will have no one - we can confidently say that - will lose their job next year in Henrico County," said Dr. Patrick Russo, Henrico Superintendent.

But the work is not done. Superintendents hope their appearance today in Richmond, makes a difference with state leaders, and avoids the so-called "doomsday budget" they currently fear. The superintendents want lawmakers to keep school funding at the current level. But with Virginia facing a $4 billion gap, even they admit it's unlikely that education will be spared.

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