Parent questions Brandywine’s decision to cut reading program

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Due to a considerable budget shortfall, Brandywine Public Schools was recently forced to make several deep cuts in its budget. Officials there said more cuts are expected, too.
In the a first round of cuts, a Title One reading and math program, as well as an after-school program known as Cool Cats, were eliminated.
The school district built this year's budget based on an enrollment of 1,600 students, said Brandywine Interim Superintendent Gary Campbell. However, only about 1,540 students were present on the school's official count day this fall.
Campbell said they receive $6,700 per student. That shortfall of about 60 students means Brandywine will lose about $400,000 it had expected to receive.
Campbell also said recent state budget cuts will mean the district will receive another $90 less per student, amounting to another $150,000 budget decrease.
He said had school officials known of the budget shortfall, they may have not have spent as much on things like teaching supplies and field trips.
The first round of cuts included eliminating a secretarial position and three positions in the Title One program, reducing supply budgets and eliminating the Cool Cats after-school child care program.
The elimination of the positions became effective at the end of December and the elimination of the Cool Cats program will become effective at the end of the semester on Jan. 23.
Title One is a federal program targeted at remedial reading and math that provides students who need help with additional reinforcement.
The Title One cut has reduced the staff from six to three employees by laying off three para-professionals.
However, some Brandywine parents are concerned that the school board chose to make budget cuts in such a vital program that targets young students at a critical learning time in their lives.
Joanne Bell, parent of a Brandywine second grader who was in the program, is disappointed in the district's choice of cuts.
Bell said the letter indicated the Title One program would now only be used for the children who need it most and her daughter was not one of those children.
Bell thinks cuts in areas like athletics, art and music would have been better than making cuts in a program that assists with reading and math.
Curran said athletics had been considered, but cutting those programs would have a direct effect on the students' morale.
Campbell said the most recent round of cuts was not enough to compensate for the budget shortfall.
He could not yet say what those cuts would include.
Campbell also said the district will be assessing the situation to see what needs to be done for next year.
That may include a variety of alternatives including the possibility of re-employing the para-professionals who were laid off.
He said they must decide on who is coming back for next year by March.
Campbell said the school district will be actively recruiting new students through the school of choice program.
Campbell said another problem is that 80 percent of the budget is in people costs.
The district will begin making plans for a balanced budget for next school year at the beginning of July.

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