There have been more Scranton School District layoffs while the board continues to struggle to achieve financial solvency. The Scranton School District budget crisis has now claimed 51 employees as the school district fights against a multi-million-dollar deficit.
The Scranton School District teachers were slated to be laid off following a unanimous vote at a raucous Scranton School District board meeting last week. The layoffs proved contentious at the public meeting, and several other items were also targeted as part of cost-cutting measures.
The Scranton School District job cuts follow a number other cuts that the board has put into motion, all in an effort to cut its sizable deficit. Aside from teachers, the Scranton School District layoffs affect 40 maintenance employees.
These school job cuts add to a growing number of Pennsylvania layoffs that have hit multiple sectors.
Scranton School District Budget Crisis
The school district needs to pass a balanced budget by April, necessitating many slashes to spending, almost in desperation.
Scranton School District has a sizable budget this year: $161.0 million. But, even with that relatively large amount of money, the district is still operating at a $4.0-million deficit for 2018 and has about a $40.0-million general fund deficit. The latest round of Scranton School District layoffs will save more than $600,000.
Of the 51 teaching positions being shed, 28 are tenured. All district librarians are set to be laid off. Some subjects will face severe cuts, including physical education, art, music, and language. The plan comes into effect on August 31.
“This is really the first time that the District had to make such a bold move. To close the budget gap for this year,” said Dr. Alexis Kirijan, Superintendent of Scranton School District.
Rosemary Boland, president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers, said, “This is a disgrace when they targeted teachers before they actually investigated any other means to go about improving this budget.”
Others pushed back against unions, claiming that this is the time for harsh Scranton School District layoffs in order to cut the deficit.
The board announced that it will be passing a balanced budget by March 28. If it is unable to make further Scranton School District budget cuts, it may have to take out a loan.
“The proposed furloughs are being made under the PA School Code, which establishes the manner in which necessary reductions of staff shall be accomplished,” read a statement from Scranton School District. “Additionally, an equal percentage of administrative staff and professional employees may be suspended.”
The district also said, “The Board appreciates the concessions that many staff members and vendors have already made. Work will continue to identify additional measures to reduce the district’s deficit in an effort to mitigate costly borrowing in order to pass a final, balanced budget by the extended deadline of April 1, 2018.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Education put Scranton School District on financial watch in June—the first in a series of steps that could lead to a state takeover of the school district.
Scranton School District Board Proposes Salary Freeze to Reduce $40-Million Deficit
On top of the Scranton School District layoffs, the region is looking to push a two-year contract on teachers that freezes salaries, increases workloads, and eliminates extra pay. Other parts of the proposed contract include a reduction to dental benefits and a renegotiation with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to enact a three-year contract that would save the district almost $1.3 million.
Naturally, the Scranton School District salary freeze and benefit cutbacks are not going over well with the teachers—or their union.
The teachers are currently working under a contract that expired in August. The newest budget called for $1.0 million in savings via teacher layoffs.
The Scranton School District cost-cutting measures were part of a suggestion by PFM, a Philadelphia-based financial consulting firm that began working with the district earlier this year. Some of the suggestions, aside from the Scranton School District Salary freeze, included eliminating health insurance coverage for spouses, consolidating schools, and reopening the district’s transportation contract.
Scranton School District Board’s Earlier Plan Involved 89 Layoffs
The earlier Scranton School District job cuts plan was to lay off 89 teachers, making the eventual Scranton School District layoffs of 51 a victory for 38 teachers who were able to keep their jobs.
The layoffs were initially intended to target art, music, physical education, libraries, family and consumer sciences, industrial arts, German, Latin, Spanish, and special education.
The Scranton School District budget deficit has been plaguing the board for some time now, and the district has been unable to effectively deal with its financial shortfall in any comprehensive way. While the Scranton School District layoffs and salary freezes are helping, the region has a long way to go before it can consider itself fully solvent.
“Scranton School Board Votes to Layoff 51 Teachers,” PA Eyewitness News, January 26, 2018.
“Scranton School District proposes two-year contract, wage freeze to Scranton teachers,” The Times-Tribune, January 22, 2018.
“Financial firm lists options for the Scranton School District,” The Times-Tribune, January 14, 2018.