Richmond schools hold public hearing on budget shortfall

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Layoffs and cutbacks could be the only choice for the Richmond School Board as it tries to balance its budget. The school system faces a nearly 24 million dollar shortfall.

A public hearing was held on the issue Monday night. Turnout was low, but concerns for what the cuts mean were high among those who did attend. The School Board is examining options for cutting costs, including the possibility of furloughs, eliminating jobs, and possibly outsourcing some positions.

For those who did come to the meeting, the implications of those possible changes are as big as the shortfall.

"Maybe in the past people haven't been so concerned because they're like oh it's not gonna affect me, but I think this year we're gonna see it in the classroom," said parent Barbara Haas. "Classes are going to be crowded and teachers are going to be gone next year."

"We usually lose a lot of our math and science teachers because they can get jobs with better pay," said teacher Lola McDowell. "But we need those good math and science teachers here. We don't want to lose any of our teachers here."

Lola McDowell has been teaching 47 years and she says her kindergartners face hunger, high crime, and broken families. She says increasing class sizes will only make overcoming their circumstances more difficult.

"We love our children and we want them to succeed, but if we do a lot of the cutting in that budget, a lot of the things we do for our children are not going to be able to be done," said McDowell. "

Teachers we spoke to say it'll be tough to stick around another year with no raises and more cuts.

"Right now, I don't feel like the options that are on the table right now will undermine the successes and undermine the employees and the people who have been faithful to the school system," said Angela Dews, President of the Richmond Education Association.

The Board must act on the decision next week and it will be presented to council in March.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.