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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

Toledo Public Schools union notified of plan to cut 147 teachers

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

To close a massive budget hole, Toledo Public Schools leaders have suggested eliminating 147 elementary school art, music, and physical education teachers, adjusting health-insurance coverage, and cutting salaries, according to a union notice obtained by The Blade.

It wasn't clear from the notice if all music, art, and gym programs would be cut or how much salaries or health-insurance coverage might be adjusted under the proposal. The notice was sent to union members to update them on the menu of cuts on the table.

Nothing has been decided, and negotiations are under way.

Superintendent John Foley had announced broad and controversial proposals - including cutting all sports and closing a high school - to fix an estimated $30 million budget hole next fiscal year.

But details of the proposed cuts involving union contracts and school system employees are being kept from the media as part of an agreement among school leaders and union chiefs, several officials told The Blade yesterday.

Even so, voters will be asked to weigh in on the proposed cuts on May 4 and pass a 0.75 percent tax on earned income that would raise about $18 million for schools.

The union newsletter also listed a proposal to cut 176 other teaching positions and all but 16 school nurses. It says classrooms and offices would only be cleaned once a week and that schools would start later and end earlier in the day to save money.

Toledo Board of Education President Bob Vasquez would not discuss the details, saying he promised not to reveal them. He said he was surprised to hear about the union newsletter.

Toledo Federation of Teachers President Francine Lawrence did not return a call from The Blade seeking comment.

And Superintendent Foley said: "I'm not going to comment on what we have put on the table."

Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Foley said yesterday that any program or function not mandated as a core educational requirement by the state would be fair game for cuts.

That includes sports.

"We have cut into academic programs without taking a look at sports," Mr. Foley said. "… I don't think we get a grade on [sports] from the state board."

Mr. Foley also has suggested closing several schools and programs - including Libbey High, Early College High School, and the Toledo Technology Academy.

Mr. Foley said the system has endured a series of annual cuts, but "we have stayed away from high schools. We really need to align the facilities with our staff and population."

The school system has an annual operating budget of about $290 million and employs about 2,400.

The school board plans a Wednesday public hearing at

5:30 p.m. at Start High School to gauge public sentiment about the budget.

Mr. Vasquez said another public hearing was in the works for March 18, but details of time and location still needed to be ironed out.

The school board will vote on the cuts at a March 23 meeting. Board members plan to form two strategies - one that would cut the full $30 million and another that would cut about half, if the income tax increase is approved.

Mr. Vasquez acknowledged that he and his colleagues did not have much time to absorb the public comments.

But at the same time, he said the board must act quickly so voters have some time to review the proposals.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at:

ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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