December 29, 2017 - 4:15 pm
Updated December 29, 2017 - 6:32 pm
It’s finally possible to measure the total impact the Clark County School District’s budget cuts.
Through most of the year, the size of the deficit and its impact on jobs were moving targets. Now — after the School Board closed the roughly $62 million hole — it’s simply a sad chapter.
All told, the budget crisis forced the elimination of 277 jobs from the district’s central services division: 23 administrative, 45 licensed and 209 support staff positions. The figure includes positions that were both occupied and vacant.
Schools slashed 262 positions: 254 licensed and eight support staff, also filled or vacant. Yet they were able to keep $11.5 million of the $15.8 million in savings from those cuts in their individual budgets, according to the amended final budget.
Despite the paper loss of 539 positions, data from the district suggest that not many people were left without a job.
Thanks to the complex “bumping” process, those whose jobs are cut can choose to take another position of equal or lesser value, depending mainly on their seniority and whether they’re qualified.
That can mean bumping a junior employee out of a current job. The newest employees at the bottom of the ladder typically lose out in this situation because they have little seniority and may not be able to bump someone from another post.
This fall, 240 support staff were reassigned to new posts, according to the data as of Dec. 12. Two declined the reassignment, and six were left without a job after the entire bumping process was complete. Meanwhile, 16 school administrators were reassigned. None declined the new post, and none was bumped out of a job.
Still, the process left a lot of employees unhappy.
Those reassignments were not all from budget cuts, according to the district. The reassignment process happens every fall to align school staffing with final enrollment numbers, and sometimes positions are cut or shifted because of lower-than-projected enrollment at a particular school.
But beyond those who lost their jobs, the deficit damaged a critical asset that’s not neatly represented on a ledger — trust.
Trust in the superintendent to look after the budget and foresee shortfalls. Trust in the School Board to approve expenditures and reductions wisely. And trust in the Legislature to adequately fund our public schools.
If anything, the shortfall further solidified the mistrust that has plagued our public school system.
No single party was responsible for the havoc wreaked. After goading from the public, the School Board acknowledged the need to have a discussion on district consultants, who can carry hefty price tags. The Department of Education admitted it erred in the distribution of kindergarten money and other funding for districts. Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky announced his exit and apologized for how he handled the deficit, which wasn’t presented until about one month before the school year began.
Regardless of who’s at fault, something has to give for this cycle to change.
“I’m very concerned about the future of education in Clark County,” teacher Jana Plenggenkuhle told the School Board earlier this month. “Fortunately, I hope to be retiring soon, but unfortunately I don’t think that there are many out there who are waiting to fill my shoes.”