Columbia County might lose teaching positions

Columbia County might lose more teaching positions next school year even as enrollment is projected to grow.

Tentative plans approved Tuesday by the school board call for eliminating more than 11 teaching positions because of a lack of state funding. The cuts would save the system about $750,000 in payroll expenses, Superintendent Charles Nagle said.

Facing a similar cut in state spending last year, school officials eliminated 100 positions, including about 70 teachers and paraprofessionals, to save about $5.5 million.

Those positions were lost even though the number of pupils grew by more than 500 to an overall student population of nearly 23,000. Nagle said the school system likely will grow by another 500 pupils next school year.

Though there are more pupils, a bump in the maximum class sizes by the state eased the need for more teachers. Class-size limits increased by two pupils this school year, allowing 20 pupils in kindergarten classes, 21 in first through third grades, 28 in fourth through eighth grades and 30 in high school classes.

Nagle has said that he expects a similar increase in the class size threshold next school year, and some officials, including state Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox, have advocated letting local systems set their own limits.

"I don't know where we can cut any more or increase class sizes any more," Nagle told the board.

State lawmakers continue to scramble to overcome a deficit of about $1 billion in tax revenue. On Monday, officials announced that tax collections were down 9.9 percent last month from February 2009.

Nagle has said he expects an $8 million cut in state funding for next school year. The system has lost nearly $14 million in state budget cuts in recent years.

Board member Mickie Blackburn voiced her disappointment in state lawmakers' unwillingness to listen to them and said parents should take up the "fight for public education."

"Public education in Georgia is in the worst shape it's been in my lifetime, and I'm getting old," Blackburn said.

Also during the meeting, the school board tentatively set the 2010-11 school calendar.

The proposed calendar establishes Aug. 5 as the start date and includes a week off for Thanksgiving, which was introduced last year to accommodate furlough days.

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