Dallas budget paints gloomy picture

DALLAS -- Second- and third-grade classes ranging from 28 to 31 students. No electives or sports programs at LaCreole Middle School. No choir at Dallas High School and core classes with 32 to 37 stude

DALLAS -- Second- and third-grade classes ranging from 28 to 31 students. No electives or sports programs at LaCreole Middle School. No choir at Dallas High School and core classes with 32 to 37 students. Ten fewer school days than the current year. Twelve teachers laid off, while others have to move from full-time to part-time jobs or be assigned new positions.

Those scenarios -- and more -- will be the reality if the proposed 2011-12 budget presented to the Dallas School District Budget Committee on Monday, April 25, is adopted.

This isn't an unfamiliar circumstance for Dallas. Since 2001-02, the district has had to cut the equivalent of 53.5 positions -- or 29.5 percent of its staff -- while enrollment has increased.

Superintendent Christy Perry said there have been difficult years in a decade of cuts, but the reductions in this budget seem especially painful.

"This feels deeper," Perry said last week. "Now it's so deep that there is no way we can say this doesn't affect kids."

People who testified at the budget committee's first meeting Monday agreed.

Dallas resident Ron Lines asked committee members to leave their radios off in their cars on their way home Monday and on the way to work the next morning.

"That's what the halls of the schools are going to sound like," Lines said.

Several students at the meeting told the committee of their concerns over the loss of the choir program at the high school and all music at the middle school.

Dallas High freshman Kathryn Collins said she is disappointed for herself and for students in lower grades at the loss of music in schools.

"The arts seem to be the first thing to be cut," she said, adding students who want to pursue choir beyond high school may now not have the chance. "It doesn't seem fair to cut us off."

Board Member Sandy Teal answered the many pleas to keep music in schools.

"We understand," Teal said. "We are listening ... It just doesn't appear that there is an easy answer."

With state funding still falling, the district has had to cut $2.5 million from its budget.

The proposal for the general fund for 2011-12 is $25.6 million -- including the local option levy on ballots about to be mailed to voters -- and the total budget is $34.6 million. That budget is based on the state providing $5.7 billion for schools in the 2011-13 biennium.

The reductions proposed for next school year are:

* Five teachers in the elementary schools.

* Two K-5 school counselors.

* One K-3 special education teacher.

* One K-3 media teacher.

* 6.84 teaching positions at LaCreole, including a sixth-grade teacher and full-time computers, art and physical education positions. Part-time family and consumer studies, band, choir, language arts and math positions will also be eliminated.

* All middle school athletics.

* 3.64 teaching positions at DHS, eliminating concert choir and Dragonaires, psychology, sociology, child development, family relations, computer applications, web design, auto cad and newspaper programs.

* One administrative position, affecting Morrison, DHS and the district's office operations. Morrison's program administrator will work from the high school.

* $75,000 in districtwide services, mostly likely technology.

* $81,482 in high school athletics, which would eliminate all junior varsity coaching stipends and supplies budgets. Junior varsity teams would be coached by volunteers.

* $133,000 from special education.

* 10 days cut from the school year.

* Of note: this budget forces the district to reduce graduation requirements and give juniors and seniors one free period each semester. It contains no cost of living increases for employees and reduces hours for 14 special education positions to avoid paying benefits.

Perry said comments and concerns from the public about the proposed budget are welcomed at all budget committee meetings. The next meeting will be Monday, May 9, at 6 p.m. at the district office, 111 SW Ash St.


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