Manchester, CT Avoids Teacher Layoffs With New Plan

The Connecticut district instead plans to limit maintenance trucks it will replace and allow a workplace accidents fund to become temporarily underfunded.

The Manchester (CT) School Board has voted on a compromise budget plan that would allow the district to slash $1 million from its operating budget and, at the same time, avoid teacher layoffs. The final version of the plan estimates that the district will spend $100.65 million during the 2012-13 fiscal year which is within the limits imposed by the board of directors. The strict spending limit is a quirk of the state’s education budgeting rules which allow the board of directors to set the funding level and leaves it to the school board to decide how to use it.

The initial plan called for elimination of 4 elementary teachers, which would have saved the district more than $218,000. Instead, the board decided to defer replacement of all four maintenance trucks, allocating funds to buy only one new one next year and temporarily under-fund the state’s accidental insurance program.

In addition, the school board hopes to convince the board of directors to give it an additional $183,681 to make up a shortfall in the district’s transportation program.

The directors had said when they approved the overall budget in April that the school board could request the additional transportation funds, and school board Chairman Chris Pattacini said at the time that he would take them up on the offer.
The initial proposal that included cutting four teachers, Pattacini said Tuesday, shows “the dire need that public education is facing.” He noted that $1.8 million in federal funding in this year’s budget will not be available in the next school year and that school officials had made requests totaling about $2.4 million that the school board could not fund.

Manchester is one of the Connecticut school districts classified as low-performing or an “alliance” district and is therefore entitled to an additional $1.34 million in state educational aid. However, to become eligible to receive that money, the district must first submit a detailed spending plan, outlining how the funds will be allocated to best bring about an improvement in students’ academic outcomes.

The additional state money comes as a result of the recently signed education reform bill which aims to close the academic achievement gap in Connecticut schools, which is the largest of any state in the country.

The law’s provisions also include a new plan to turnaround failing school districts and a new tougher teacher evaluation system which will allow districts to link tenure decision to teacher performance.

A limited pilot program to assess the new teacher evaluation system is scheduled to begin next year. The current plan is to fully implement it in all Connecticut school districts by the 2014-15 school year. The reform bill budgets about $100 million to fund the pilot program and plan its eventual full deployment.

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