Dozens of Newton’s parents and educators called on bosses to increase funding for the city’s public schools to avoid proposed job cuts, which they said would hit vital services for students recovering from the pandemic.
The city in Massachusetts‘ education system faces a nearly $4 million budget shortfall next year, and Superintendent David Fleishman has recommended slashing 39 employees to make up the difference.
Due to decreasing enrollment, another 14 posts would be removed. The reductions would have an impact on the city’s schools at all levels.
During a public hearing, Rielle Montague, whose children attend the city’s schools, expressed her opposition to the proposed changes.
She said: “Our kids have not fully recovered from the pandemic; Now is not the time to make cuts to staff and services that support our children as they continue to recover.”
Fleishman, who told employees about the job losses early last month, said in a budget report on March 23 that officials are doing all necessary to mitigate the impact of the layoffs.
Rising costs, like increased health insurance costs, a more expensive school transportation contract, and new and expanded special education programs, are driving next year’s budget shortfall.
The proposed cuts sparked a protest by school teachers last week at Newton City Hall, as well as opposition from the School Committee, which passed a resolution calling for additional funding to avoid the cuts.
A dozen city council members have also urged Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to use federal pandemic relief funds to close the budget gap.
She said in a statement late last week that Newton will continue to invest heavily in students and educators, “but must remain clear-eyed about this reality” of decreased enrollment.
Fuller believes that using one-time cash to address the structural shortfall in the school budget is irresponsible and that deferring these “difficult decisions” will simply cause greater disruption in the future.
Fuller called the proposed job cuts “painful for the people who serve in these roles, painful for our community that wishes resources were not a constraint, painful after two difficult COVID years and painful as we realize that enrollment trends may lead to more hard choices.”
The proposed budget keeps many academic programs in place, Fleishman said, and would also add approximately 13 positions for expanded and new special education programs next year.
But the proposed cuts would include reductions in literacy and math support for the elementary and middle schools, Fleishman said.
Counseling would be reduced at the middle and high schools, and there would be some larger class sizes, he said.
Newton’s public schools have about 11,700 students and a workforce of about 2,500 employees. About 2,100 full-time employees and almost 400 part-time employees work for the system.
The city’s public school enrolment has declined by around 1,000 pupils in the last five years.