Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters on North Avenue, Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Baltimore City Public Schools officials are considering major staff cuts to make up for an abnormally large budget deficit of $130 million for fiscal 2018.
City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises sent out a letter this morning addressed to “families, students, partners, and friends” of the school system. In an effort to remain transparent about how the school system plans to fix the 10 percent funding gap in the $1.3 billion budget for next year, she revealed that “without additional funding, we are facing layoffs of more than a thousand staff members.”
In past years, Baltimore City Public Schools has used hiring and spending freezes to make up for shortfalls. When there were layoffs, administrators have tried to largely cut administrative jobs in the district office. However, the size of this deficit means “most of the layoffs will affect staff members in schools,” she wrote.
Also on the chopping block are services like trash pick-up, which could be reduced from its daily schedule, enrichment programs and jobs in some central district offices, according to the Sun’s Erica Green.
The Baltimore City School Board already voted last month to close four schools due in part to low enrollment. Having higher enrollment would allow officials to make a stronger case for more funding in Annapolis. However, while the school system projected that enrollment would increase in future years following a roughly 4.5 percent overall jump in students from 2007 to 2014, enrollment surprisingly dropped in the last couple years. The total number of students for 2016-17 sits at about 82,300, down from nearly 85,000 in 2014-15.
Santelises wrote in her letter that the potential for layoffs “does not mean we will work with any less urgency to provide our students with the high-quality teaching and learning they deserve.” City Schools will continue prioritizing spending on literacy education, staff development and “addressing the needs of the whole child with support for physical, social, and emotional well-being,” she added.
Santelises will meet with lawmakers in Annapolis today to discuss ways to fix the shortfall. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.
Baltimore City Public Schools has put together a website outlining some of the specific challenges associated with the budget. It also shows specific figures indicating declines in school system revenue and state spending per student in Baltimore and spending areas that have been “structural drivers” of the growing deficit over the last several years.