Lafayette school board committee rejects increasing class sizes to address budget shortfall

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LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — The Lafayette Parish School Board's finance committee rejected a proposal to increase class sizes by one student next school year to help offset a budget shortfall that could be as steep as $22 million.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1FRd6Tu) the three-member panel Wednesday rejected the student-teacher ratio increase recommendation from the staff, which estimated the savings at $4.9 million.

The committee instead voted 2-1 to accept committee member Tehmi Chassion's proposal that there be no increase in class size "until all budget options have been exhausted."

During the four-hour meeting, the committee also considered other ways to offset a shortfall that's projected at $18.1 million but could increase to $22 million if the board decides not to include projected increases in sales and property tax revenues in the budget.

Budget talks will begin in April, though consideration of instructional expenses likely won't happen until May. A decision on class sizes is needed sooner for staffing decisions to be incorporated in proposed budgets for the full board's consideration.

Adding an additional student to the class size would affect teaming — a teaching method used in middle schools in the district — and about 70 teaching positions would no longer be needed, but could be handled through retirements and resignations, interim superintendent Burnell LeJeune said.

Chief financial officer Billy Guidry told the committee that not increasing the student-teacher ratio would mean staff would have to identify another nearly $5 million in offsets.

The committee also considered a list of suggested cuts that could cover at least $16.6 million of the shortfall. Some positions proposed for elimination include: three of four dean of student positions at a savings of $288,000; 7.5 assistant principal positions at a savings of $749,453; a consolidation of 15 instructional strategist positions at a savings of nearly $1.1 million; and a reduction in school nursing staff by 10 licensed practical nurses and one registered nurse at a savings of $385,000.


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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