COLUMBIA — The Columbia Public School Board approved budget reductions equaling $4.4 million in a 5 to 1 vote at its meeting Monday night. Board member Rosie Tippin cast the dissenting vote. Board president Michelle Gadbois was absent.
Tippin expressed concerns with elimination of all math and literacy coaches, including those at Title I schools.
Title I schools are those in which at least 40 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunch. Schools that get Title I money are regulated by federal legislation, including those that address academic achievement.*
"We're still having trouble closing the (academic) achievement gap," Tippin said. "This is one of the programs that helps with that."
The 2009-10 budget reduction recommendations to the Board of Education Finance Committee state: "All literacy, math and curriculum coach positions, at both the elementary and secondary levels, would be eliminated. Some of these positions are funded through Title I, and those Title I funds would be reallocated to other Title I programs."
Elimination of literacy and math coaches will save the district $1,603,250.
Because the coaches at Title I schools are funded with federal money, Tippin said she thought that math and literacy coaches at these schools should remain in their positions.
Other board members said cutting the budget was not ideal but was still necessary, and the need to balance the budget in the current economic situation continued to override the need for math and literacy coaches.
"The support staff will stay there, but it will be of the intervention model," said Jack Jensen, assistant superintendent for elementary education.
Cutting programs for the 2009-10 school year does not mean successful programs won't resurface, said Steve Calloway, vice president of the school board.
"Discontinuing math and literacy coaches, that doesn't mean we're abandoning the concept," Calloway said. "We just can't do it this year."
Eliminating certain programs may even illustrate their effectiveness or lack thereof. Board member Ines Segert pointed out that math test scores have fallen in the past year and said math coaches have been proven ineffective.
"This is a good opportunity to look at different models," Segert said.
Other budget reductions include the elimination of 71 positions, a 10 percent cut of school supplies and the total cut of field trip and club stipends. Approval of these and other budget reductions is not the end of the budget discussion.
"We will be involved in the budget process for the next two months," interim superintendent Jim Ritter said. The budget must be approved no later than June 30.
The board also discussed:
- The possibility for more revenue this year. Linda Quinley, director of business services for Columbia public schools, said there may be $400,000 more in revenue than projected for the rest of the 2008-09 school year. This money would go toward reducing this year's deficit.
- Changes to the new superintendent's contract. The board approved changes made Thursday at a work session. The final version will be presented to Chris Belcher for his signature.
- The direction further budget cuts may take. Laura Sandstedt, president of Columbia Public Schools Employee Organization, said she had heard from many members that the district should not eliminate any more jobs to provide improvements to compensation. A representative of Columbia Missouri National Education Association said further cuts should be made to restore the salary schedule. Consideration of the salary schedule will take place at a later date.
Missourian reporters Amanda Branco and Joshua Nichol-Caddy contributed to this report.