LAMBERTVILLE - Facing a June 30 deadline to cut $5.4 million from next year's budget, the Bedford Schools board of education last night approved sending pink slips to 46 classroom teachers.
The resolution, which school officials say is needed to satisfy the district's contract with its unionized teachers, passed 4-2 with board members Joe Gore and Michael Smith voting against.
About a dozen of the more than 100 people who attended the special board meeting at Monroe Road Elementary spoke about the layoffs during the part of the meeting for public comment.
Natalie Ewing, a physical education teacher at Smith Road Elementary, told the board she is among employees who will receive layoff notices.
She said that because her family depends on her job for health benefits, she is especially scared for her 3-year-old daughter, who needs treatment for a medical condition.
"It is a very big deal in my family. With me losing my job and losing my insurance, I can't get her the help that I need … "Mrs.
Ewing said, choking back tears.
"I feel privileged to be a teacher at Bedford. Bedford is a very highly respected school district with great people to work with."
Sandra Kraine, the parent of two boys who attend Monroe Road Elementary, asked board members about the impact that cutting teachers would have on the quality of education.
"I am incredibly proud of the school we have and of its staff," she said. "I come into the building and I see the difference the staff makes."
The resolution to lay off teachers went before the board May 10 but failed by one vote because three board members were absent.
Mr. Gore, whose no vote last week sent the resolution to defeat, told his colleagues on the board that he couldn't support the action because it would displace workers.
"I don't like layoffs in any shape or form," he said.
Like many school districts across Monroe County and Michigan, Bedford is grappling with its budget because of cuts in state funds and increases in operating costs.
The district projects a $268-a-student cut in state funding for next year, which is in addition to the $165 cut this year.
It is trying to slash nearly $5.4 million to have a balanced budget in place before June 30.
"We are looking at dire financial conditions for the Bedford Public Schools," Superintendent Ted Magrum said.
The district is putting its hopes on a retirement incentive plan for school employees recently approved by the Michigan Legislature to help weather the financial crisis.
The legislation, which has yet to be signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, would save jobs for teachers who otherwise would be laid off.
Mr. Magrum said the number of positions eliminated depends on the number of teachers who decide to retire, plus other cuts made by the board.
"This is a necessary process. We have to go through that to protect the budget because of contract obligations," he said.
The school board laid off 47 teachers and other staff last year when the district faced a similar budget crunch, but it eventually recalled everyone except three teachers.
Before voting in favor of the layoffs, board vice president Timothy Brakel said he was concerned for teachers and families affected by the notices and the impact that the loss of teachers could have on the school system.
"I do know that in the past the school district has continued to monitor class sizes," he said.
"We will continue to do that."
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