City board asks Congress to reconsider cuts
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Nov 09, 2012 | 1306 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Board of Education members signed a resolution Thursday night asking Congress and the White House administration to amend the Budget Control Act which would impose $1.2 trillion in across-the-board budget cuts to almost all federal programs.

Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director, read the resolution to the board.

“Whereas, these across-the-board budget cuts, also known as sequestration, would impact education by a reduction in funds of 8.2 percent or more and could result in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, possible four-day school weeks, loss of extracurricular activities, and teacher and staff layoffs ...,” Ringstaff read.

According to reports given by the school board, the cuts would directly impact programs such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, English Language Acquisition, and Career and Technical Education.

Cuts would reportedly directly affect those programs, and also affect the education of all students in the school. A total of $2.7 billion loss would affect three programs (Title I, IDEA, and Head Start) and 30.7 million children.

“It would mean substantial cuts. Federal only gives about 4 percent of our budget, which does not sound like a lot, but it is a lot to these programs,” Ringstaff said. “If they cut their funding, then we either have to make it up or we have to make cuts.”

Ringstaff said making cuts is difficult when 80 percent of the budget goes toward personnel. Retirement is always the first option the city schools system would look toward.

“It is an easy decision on paper, but when it directly affects families and communities, then that is when it becomes a problem,” Ringstaff said.

Cuts could occur in help offered to special education teachers through their teaching aides and bus monitors. Additional cuts could be made to Head Start’s faculty staff.

“Special Education began in 1975,” said Peggy Pesterfield, board member. “It was supposed to be federally funded by 40 percent. It has never been funded more than 17 percent. If you take another 9 percent, then it will be a huge problem.”

A 9 percent decrease in funds would also have a negative impact on the two Cleveland Title I schools.

“Now we are talking about cutting funding to our socioeconomic schools, which would be an oxymoron of sort,” Ringstaff said. “We understand the government needs to cut money. I am not sure they have picked it out of the right direction.”

Ringstaff said the move does not make sense as the state is already struggling to help Title I and special ed students. He said this would affect populations already hurt moneywise.

The move for a resolution resulted from an email received by Tom Cloud and Martin Ringstaff. The Tennessee School Board Association strongly suggested the city school board respond to imminent sequestering.

Dawn Robinson urged her fellow board members to sign the resolution.

“What matters is our president and Congress have to get their heads together to fix this issue. This is going to burn us,” Robinson said. “I hope we as citizens understand this. Not only is the ‘fiscal cliff’ going to hurt the school, but it will hurt everybody else, as well.”

Continued Robinson, “I guess the big message is, something has to be done.”

Reports reveal schools are already strained financially.

“Whereas, federal funding for K-12 programs was already reduced by more than $835 million in Fiscal Year 2011, and state and local funding for education continues to be impacted by budget cuts and lower local property tax revenues ...,” Ringstaff read.

The resolution will be sent out to all elected officials.