Cranston School Cuts
Cutting or consolidating sports programs is grabbing the headlines as Cranston tries to deal with it’s school budget deficit, but other programs are in danger as well. It’s not just the jocks.
The $1.1-million in proposed cuts — which include the elementary school enrichment program along with strings, band and chorus, following the recommendations of a court-ordered performance audit — follow the state Supreme Court ruling last month that found the district ignored the financial reality, continued to overspend its budget and then sued the city for additional money.
Now, the district must repay the city some $8.4 million from loans for the 2007-08 school year, while trying to close the projected $1-million deficit for the current school year.
People are understandably upset at the school committee:
Accusations flew back and forth during the four-hour meeting with students blaming the School Committee members for ducking their obligations and making the students pay for the consequences. School Committee members pointed their fingers at the City Council for level-funding the School Department while increasing funding to other departments by as much as 11 and 12 percent.
But that’s a tough sell when it was the school committee that negotiated a teacher contract containing, on average, 12% yearly salary increases for teachers on the “step program” (according to an OSPRI analysis). And it’s even more interesting when the school administration and school committee members try to shirk their responsibility:
“Again, we don’t want basic either,” said School Supt. Peter Nero. “No one does.”
“Someone else made the decision,” Nero said, referring to the auditors, “and we have no choice but to follow it.”
“Understand, what the Supreme Court has said: in 2007, we should have cut [the enrichment program], and we didn’t,” School Committee member Frank S. Lombardi said. “We should have cut the bands and string, and we didn’t. We should have cut 25 percent of [the sports budget], and we didn’t. So, we held the line for three years for you guys, and now it’s ‘do or else.’”
Wow. “Held the line” for the kids…how noble. You didn’t hold the line when it came to contract negotiations, though, did you? Let’s hope Cranston voters remember who is truly responsible for this mess come November.