Smithart: Opp will lose 8 or 9 teachers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 6, 2010

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said Friday his system will lose “eight to nine” teachers at the end of this school year because of proration.

In Alabama, funding for the education budget is based on sales and income tax revenues, which have decreased considerably because of the poor economy. As a result, proration was declared in 2009, greatly reducing funding to education systems statewide. This year’s education budget was prorated 7.5 percent, costing Opp $563,000; Andalusia, more than $630,000 and more than $1.2 million for the Covington County School System. “Stabilizing funds” from the stimulus package helped to cover some of those cuts; however, that funding is set to expire in 2011.

Recently, Andalusia’s superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty said the system could cut up to 15 teachers because of the funding shortfall, which means a total of 24 teachers in the county could be without work after May.

Smithart said for Opp, there’s no way to predict exactly what will transpire on the education front until the legislature passes the education budget for the new fiscal year budget, which begins in October.

“This is (Opp’s) situation – it all depends on how much proration is,” Smith said.

“If we are funded at the (2010) prorated amount, and if we can’t come up with a way to supplement (the budget) with local funding – it means we have to cut eight to nine teachers.”

Currently, the OCS has 90 teachers on the payroll, and for the system to keep those “eight to nine” teachers, Smithart said it would mean an additional $500,000 in funds.

Additionally, the loss of those teachers means the loss of support personnel such as janitors and lunchroom workers, Smithart said.

“With every teacher unit, we earn a certain amount of money for what we call ‘other current expenses,’ which is where we get the money to pay support personnel,” he said. “In our situation, if we lose eight teachers, that will cost us $100,000 in ‘OCE.’ ”

And with only 2.5 months of operational reserves, it’s unlikely the system can come up with the needed local funds to keep the current staffing level, Smithart said.

“But right now, it’s hard to speak to specifics, because we don’t know what the budget holds,” he said.

“It’s all speculative, but we’re using the numbers we have, and we’re trying to find what we can live with.

“We have to take a look at our specific needs in our system (when making the cuts),” he said.

“And because we’re dealing with both tenured and non-tenured teachers, you have to look at their certification and apply it to what best fits the needs of our students.”

Legislators have yet to begin public discussions on this year’s education budget, which is a huge problem, Smithart said.

“The whole situation (facing education) is unfair to teachers and to students, because we are spending a great deal of time and energy on the bingo question, and no one – as of right now – is addressing the most urgent need in our state right – education.

“We hear news of the number of people losing jobs in bingo industry, but right now there are 4,000 teachers and that many support workers who are about to lose their job.

“This is the economic issue,” he said.