District Budget Cuts Hit Allderdice
The Board of Education, trying to cut costs and fill a looming budget deficit, voted in June to cut 217 Central Office positions and consider a District Realignment Plan that includes school closures.
The plan’s purpose, said Superintendent Linda Lane, is to address the projected $41 million budget deficit in 2012 by reducing the financial burden of under-enrolled schools throughout the District through school closures. Under the plan, which Lane presented in early August and which can be voted on as early as November 22, seven schools will be closed, and one new school will be opened. The proposed closures include Pittsburgh Oliver High School and Pittsburgh Langley High School, with a new PreK-8 school to open in the Langley building.
“Our work to build a sustainable district includes more than just school closings,” Lane said, when introducing the plan. “We are looking inside our schools to realign everything from under-enrolled classes to course offerings—from feeder patterns to staff reductions.”
At Allderdice the financial constraints can be felt as well. Enrollment has increased, but the site-based budget—money from the District that covers everything from teacher salaries to supplies to travel expenses—remained the same from last year.
Principal Melissa Friez said that in dealing with the budget for Allderdice, the primary goal is to put as much money toward instruction as possible to avoid teacher layoffs and ensure that the students always come first. No courses were cut this year, she said.
In keeping with that, Friez said that the main cuts have come to the supply lines. Teachers will have to be more cautious in their usage of classroom supplies, like paper, and not request supplies that are unnecessary, she said. Despite efforts to the contrary, several staff positions at Allderdice were cut over the summer, including a secretary and half-day teachers that had been hired to help reduce class sizes.
Of the 217 district positions eliminated so far, most were from the central office—administrative workers, janitors, paraprofessionals—but 49 teachers and support staff were laid off as well.
Even before the cuts in state funding were announced, the District had a shortage of $8.7 million this year. Governor Tom Corbett’s 2011-2012 budget cuts $34.1 million in funds for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and without drastic changes, estimates say the district budget deficit could reach $75 million in 2015.
Through the layoffs and cost saving measures already undertaken by the District, the projected deficit for 2012 has been reduced from over $60 million to $41.2 million. However, the Realignment Plan and other measures are still needed for a return to financial health.
“Addressing the District’s underutilized classrooms will provide us our largest savings in the long run,” said Lane. “The way to achieve these savings is through a combination of school closings and by addressing our under-enrolled classes.”
In June, the District began an internal review process of current schools and school facilities, grading each on four factors: student achievement, student enrollment, facility condition, and operations costs. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best score), Allderdice received a 5 in student enrollment, a 3 in facilities condition, a 3 in operations cost, and a 1 in student achievement based on 2009-2010 PSSA and AYP results, totaling a 3.00 average score. The most recent test results had not been released when the assessment took place. Had the 2010-2011 results—in which Allderdice made AYP—been available, the student achievement score would have been higher than a 1.
Oliver and Langley had the lowest average scores of 1.50 and 1.75, respectively. Of the high schools, CAPA had the highest score of 4.25.