As Hillsborough County Public Schools brace for the impact of the recently approved state education budget and new legislation (House Bill 7069), the school board held a workshop on June 20th to discuss their budget. Much of the four hours of was devoted to district leaders presenting information on budget trends dating back to the 2011-2012 school year. (The information can be found here)
The presentation showed that revenue was shrinking even before the double punch delivered during this legislative session and spending has to be reduced. Both district leadership and board members expressed a desire to do everything possible to avoid major impacts to the classroom, but in reality, that may not be possible.
Throughout the day, discussions turned repeatedly to payroll as a large portion of the budget, including past and current efforts to reduce the number of people employed by the school district. Currently, the district is under a hiring freeze in order to transfer current employees before bringing on new hires. There are also efforts to eliminate positions that have gone unfilled for a long period of time and are considered non-essential. Over 1,000 positions have been reduced in this way. There was time devoted to the definition on essential and non-essential positions with the board seeming to agree that teachers and other employees closest to students are “essential.” Discussion also turned to concerns over the continued expansion of non-school based administrator roles, as they are removed from students and could mean the administration is top heavy.
Another large area of concern was the upkeep of facilities, with staff explaining that once the payments are made on loans for school construction, the districts is $11 million dollars short of meeting capital improvement needs each year. That means longer wait times for schools to fix items like roofs and air conditioning systems. This dire situation existed before HB 7069 sent even more of these dollars to charter schools and it is unclear what impact that will have on this area of the budget.
There seemed to be no clear answer as to how the new “Schools of Hope” legislation would impact public school districts. There could be an impact from children leaving public schools and going to charter schools opened under the “Schools of Hope” program. Hillsborough County Public Schools already loses $150,663,951 each year to charters.
During his closing statement, Superintendent Eakins said the most important question is,“How do we operate differently and still meet the needs of students?” What is your answer to this question? What thoughts, feedback, concerns or opinions do you have on the district’s budget woes?
Click here to easily send an email to the elected school board members. Tell them what you think they should do to give students a high quality education as they weigh these important financial decisions.
Here are some recent articles about the Hillsborough County Schools’ budget:
Hillsborough Schools budget woes were worse than we knew, Tampa Bay Times
Budget woes force the Hillsborough school district to rethink its role, Tampa Bay Times
No quick thaw for Hillsborough hiring freeze, The Gradebook, Tampa Bay Times