Teachers union president reacts to school district's plan to reduce deficit
Logan Bradford said his teachers and a social worker at school saved his life.
The 18-year-old struggled with a drug addiction that got him in trouble with the law, and he was having suicidal thoughts. Logan said O’Fallon Township High School was the only place where people’s opinions of him didn’t change during that time.
Logan said O’Fallon teachers talk to students in the classroom about how they’re doing. They form connections that feel more like family or friendships, he said, especially among the newer faculty members like his social worker, Caitlin Mueller.
“They care,” Logan said.
He shared his story Tuesday night before the O’Fallon District 203 School Board approved $1 million in budget cuts for the 2017-18 school year, including cuts to teaching staff at the high school. Two board members, Keith Richter and Donna Johnson, voted against the cuts.
For several hours, board members privately reviewed a deficit-reduction plan to address what Superintendent Darcy Benway says is a financial crisis in District 203. Benway said the district is projecting a $2.3 million deficit by next school year, which is “primarily due to the state’s financial situation” and a lack of payments for education.
Changes that the board made to next year’s budget include:
▪ Reductions in certified teaching staff equivalent to 8.4 full-time positions, including the equivalent of 6.8 full-time positions in classroom sections. Guidance and library staff are also affected by the reductions.
▪ Reductions in certified administrators equivalent to 1 full-time position.
▪ Reductions in non-certified personnel equivalent to 5 full-time positions.
▪ Increase in athletic fees from $100 per participant to $175 per participant.
▪ Increase in textbook and registration fees from $150 per student to $175 per student.
▪ Reduction of $93,000 in the district’s operating budgets.
▪ Elimination of the school’s early bird, or zero hour, program.
The board ultimately decided not to include social workers in its cuts. It had also previously considered cutting the swimming and lacrosse programs, but the sports were not included in the deficit-reduction plan and will not be affected next year.
Mike Day, president of the O’Fallon teachers’ union, said he had been hopeful that the board would decide against teacher layoffs.
“I’m just devastated to be honest,” Day said after the vote.
Some teachers could be laid off, while others could move from full time to part time, Day said. With fewer teachers, students will see an increase in class sizes next year. However, Benway previously said the district would cap the classes at 30 students.
The cuts for the 2017-18 school year come after Benway said the district has made nearly $4 million in cuts since the 2010-11 school year.
“This is not new. The district has been in deficit reduction mode since 2009,” she said.
Several students cried and comforted each other in the meeting room when board members approved the deficit-reduction plan.