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Atlanta Public Schools to Cut Nearly 500 Jobs

Atlanta Public Schools could shed nearly 500 positions next year in an effort to cut spending by $47 million.

The school board approved a plan Monday to cut up to 475 jobs, including about 230 teachers, 90 custodians and 14 bus drivers and transportation staffers. Some of the layoffs are a result of a recent school redistricting, others because of declining revenue.

Dozens of parents and employees spoke out against the planned changes, but school officials say the cuts are necessary to get the district’s spending in check.

“We’re going to rethink almost everything we do, from the classroom to central offices,” said Chuck Burbridge, APS’ chief financial officer.

Revenue from property taxes has dropped by $119 million since 2008. Over the same period, the budget for the 49,000-student district has decreased by $56 million.

Almost every department was asked to cut spending by 10 percent in order to accommodate a leaner proposed budget of $564.8 million. Employees will again have two furlough days, and there will not be raises or cost-of-living increases.

Like most school systems, the district spends most of its money — 53.6 percent — on salaries. Benefits are the second-highest expense and make up more than 20 percent of the budget. That’s why APS leaders say it’s impossible to make cuts without cutting people.

“We will have to reduce labor force to achieve this,” Burbridge said.

Preliminary budgets show nearly all metro area school districts are cutting staff to rein in spending. Gwinnett is planning for 585 fewer employees, Cobb is planning for 250 fewer, Henry is planning to cut 200, DeKalb is planning for 133 fewer, and Clayton and Fayette might have to work with roughly 100 fewer employees.

APS hasn’t decided who will get a pink slip. A tentative budget was adopted Monday, a final version is expected to be adopted in early June and layoffs would be executed June 30. Some positions will be eliminated as a result of attrition or as educators implicated in a cheating scandal leave the district.

About 80 to 90 custodial jobs may be eliminated by hiring outside contractors to clean schools. The plan is to keep custodial staffers at elementary schools and APS headquarters during the day. Contractors will clean overnight at all schools and district offices, and during the day at middle schools and high schools, school officials said.

The move will save $3 million, but custodians say the district is wrongly targeting some of the district’s lowest earners.

“I’m outraged,” said Gwendolyn Harris, who has worked as a custodian for 23 years. “If they want to find money, cut management.”

To read the rest of  Jaime Sarrio’s story, go to AJC

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