- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The Lafayette Parish School System will send out email surveys this week to all district teachers to get more input on how to proceed with the proposed 2014-15 budget.

Superintendent Pat Cooper tells The Advertiser (https://bit.ly/UzFwQj ) the results should be compiled before the next school board budget meeting, scheduled for Thursday.

“We’re just trying to determine what the teachers want,” Cooper said. “If they want 33 kids in a class and their bonus, then I need to hear that from them. If they want something else, we need to hear that. We’re going to try to get factual data on this.”

The district is facing a deficit of about $23.5 million for the next fiscal year, because of a combination of losing about $8 million to charter schools, plus increased health care and retirement costs, along with unfunded state and federal mandates. So far, the school board has opted not to use a part of its nearly $70 million savings account to help reduce the deficit, with members saying they do not want to use one-time money for recurring expenses. The district also has money generated from a 2002 sales tax that has historically been used to pay teachers a bonus check of more than $2,000 per year.

Last week, Cooper and other officials proposed cutting millions of dollars in programs and personnel, including about 300 positions. The board took no action on those proposals, and is instead taking time to review the entire budget and submit their own suggestions for consideration next week.

Some of the suggestions tossed out last week included eliminating the central office community relations department, discontinuing payments of more than $100,000 to a private law firm for board services, eliminating a $17,500 legal bill from Cooper and reducing travel, dues and subscriptions.

Kyla Cormier Ardoin, a former Lafayette Parish teacher, said she thinks the continuing budget debates are having an impact on teachers.

Ardoin said she thinks many teachers are especially watching to see if the budget cuts will mean higher student/teacher ratios, with 33 students in a class a possibility for some grades next year.

“I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it wouldn’t be easy,” she said. “The principals aren’t willing to make any moves on their campuses right now because no one knows what will happen.”

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Information from: The Advertiser, https://www.theadvertiser.com

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