St. Louis Public Schools superintendent to announce budget-cutting plan

Thursday, April 15, 2010 | 5:31 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Like their counterparts in Kansas City, Detroit and other struggling urban school districts, the parents, teachers and students of St. Louis Public Schools are preparing for the worst.

Superintendent Kelvin Adams will unveil a plan Thursday night to drastically trim costs to plug a nearly $58 million deficit. He said earlier this week that "every option is on the table" — including school closings and mass layoffs.

Just one month ago, the Kansas City school board agreed to close nearly half of its 61 schools in response to its own $50 million budget shortfall. Detroit also closed 29 schools this academic year. And multiple school closings have hit Milwaukee, New York, Seattle and suburban Atlanta in recent years.

The St. Louis district already closed 13 schools before the start of the current academic year as enrollment plummeted from more than 40,000 in the 2004-05 school year to less than 26,000 now. Another two dozen schools were shuttered in the preceding six years.

Adams will present his proposal to a three-member Special Administrative Board that was put in place when the state took over city schools in 2007. The panel isn't expected to vote on the proposal until its April 29 meeting.

St. Louis retains an elected school board, though members lack direct oversight. Board president Peter Downs said that while he is bracing for bad news, he doesn't expect the scope of the reductions to be as significant as in Kansas City.

Downs expects Adams to cut between 400 and 500 of the district's estimated 2,000 teaching jobs, but said the superintendent hopes to eliminate many of those positions through early retirement. Spokeswoman Julie Linder said Adams was not available for comment before Thursday's 6 p.m. meeting.

"When you get this deep in the hole, you have to look at cutting people," Downs said. "That's just the reality."

The hit could also be softened by an anticipated share of $54 million in federal stimulus grants for low-performing Missouri schools over the next three years. Twenty-one of the 52 schools eligible for that support are in St. Louis.

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