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Editorial: Layoffs an unfortunate — but necessary — part of cost reduction

Published 11:15pm Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anyone who has ever faced cuts — whether on the employee or employer side — knows the consequences they have on people. Layoffs are tough. No one wants to see people let go when times are hard.
And the same certainly applies to schools, where children depend on teachers and other staff for their education. But, unfortunately, cuts are not new to education in recent years, and more are to come.
Niles Community Schools is among districts that have some difficult decisions to make this year — an estimated $3 million decision, in fact.
To make that drastic of a cost reduction, the district is going to have to make some decisions that are not going to make everyone happy. It will be impossible to please everyone. There will be debate and frustration and even anger.
The board of education is currently mulling cost-saving measures for the 2011-2012 year. To aid in the process, the Niles District Education Association offered some suggestions for budget cuts. Among them, installing solar panels, wind turbines and rain catchers on the roofs; eliminating tuition reimbursement for administrators; and doing all printing projects in-house.
Not only do these suggestions not have actual cost-saving numbers attached to them, they are merely a drop in a $3 million bucket.
Suggestions are helpful, and we are sure the school board is seeking innovative as well as realistic ideas. But even a savings of $10,000 on one budget item is not going to help the district meet that $3 million goal.
The union, like all unions, is working to protect and benefit the teaching staff. That is its job.
And jobs, as in all school districts, make up the huge majority of Niles Community Schools’ budget. Salaries and benefits total approximately three-fourths of Niles’ spending.
No one wants to see a teacher go. But schools are not immune to layoffs, just as manufacturers, hospitals and even the mom and pop shops are not. Tough times call for tough decisions, and staff reduction is likely going to be one of those decisions.
How much Niles is going to have to cut, and where, will be determined in the near future. We don’t wish hardship for anyone, but $3 million is a pretty large chunk of change, and state funding is not pouring in — it’s not even at a trickle. Money makes a district run, just as the teachers do.
We expect the union and school board will come to realistic compromises not only in contract negotiations, but when budget cut time comes.

This editorial reflects the views of the Niles Daily Star editorial board.

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