Baltimore City Schools CEO Says It Is Too Late To Avert Some 300 Layoffs

At a Baltimore City Council meeting on Tuesday, school district officials said it was too late to avert impending layoffs for some 300 administrators and teachers, even though council members considered ways to reroute money to city schools.

School officials told the council members that they are obligated to notify all affected personnel within the next two weeks, which leaves little time to stop the layoffs.

Council President Bernard C. Young recently proposed to redirect $10 million from the Baltimore police department to the city school district.

Chief-of-staff to schools CEO Sonja Santelises, Alison Perkins-Cohen, said, “We might be able to call teachers back.” “We couldn’t really prevent it from happening this summer.”

The layoffs are required to balance a $1.31 billion budget for the next school year. Under current union contracts, the administrators are required to notify affected employees no later than June 1.

Perkins-Cohen, who said the layoff would affect guidance counselors, assistant principals and counselors, unveiled new details about the layoff proposal. An estimated 50 employees from the central office and fewer than 75 teachers in various core subjects, including English and science will be laid off.

While job cuts in the past few years did not include teachers, the cuts would make three consecutive years of layoffs.

“Normal should not be that half the schools don’t have school librarians,” she told the committee.

City budget officials have confirmed that city schools will end the year with a $12 million surplus and it is believed that some of that money could be transitioned to next year’s budget. Budget chairman Eric T. Costello, Young and other council members suggested the city could cut up to $13 million for a $50 budget that has been set aside for potential retiree benefit lawsuits filed by the police union.

School district employees have debated and worried about the budget ever since the $130 shortfall was revealed in January. At first, Santelises thought that the shortfall would lead to 1,000 layoffs, but after city and state legislators pledged a combined nearly $60 million to help close the gap, the layoffs were scaled back to 300.

On Tuesday, the teachers union and Baltimore’s school board announced they are at a deadlock after 14 months of contract negotiations. The two sides said they are “headed into mediation.”

The city school board is insisting to decrease costs on benefits and salaries due to the budget shortfall. An agreement has been reached on health benefits, but the school district and union remain stuck on compensation.

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