Potential Rockford Schools Budget Cuts

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Right now Rockford schools are enjoying the strongest financial position they've had in years. But a projected four million dollar deficit is threatening that prosperity. School board members discussed cutting some programs Tuesday night and many parents don't like what they're hearing.
With 37 million dollars in the bank, the Rockford school district has finally moved off the state's financial watchlist. Now district leaders want to do what it takes to preserve that strong financial footing and with a projected four million dollar deficit for next year, that could mean cutting some non-state mandated education programs.
Those include newly added Freshman Foundations, an optional seventh class period and athletics.
Class sizes could grow, but Auburn High School's principal Dr. Richard Jancek says, "Cutting classes that are under 18, that would have an impact, a negative impact on some of our specialized programs."
Some staff like library aides could lose their jobs.
"Schools that had fully staffed, fully stocked, librarians able to collaborate with teachers, that sort of thing, those test scores were higher," says Deborah Bailey, the school district's library and media coordinator.
Some parents are also worried about losing the Fresh Start Program that helps kids on the verge of expulsion.
"Hopefully he ain't never gonna get there," Rockford mom Brandi Jakeway says motioning to her son. "But if it happens I'd like him not to get kicked out of school if it can be avoided. Just things to basically make sure he gets through high school and on to college."
Board member Mike Williams says providing those opportunities should be priority number one. The board recently approved raises for all administrators, now Williams says those need a second look.
"I've received numerous calls from residents that this administration should be looking at cutting administration before cutting education programs," says Williams.
Williams isn't convinced the board needs to make any cuts. The district's revenue projections are conservative, about a million dollars short of what they may really be.
The board does have the option of dipping into that 37 million dollar surplus. But the fear is that if they start cutting into the surplus it could soon disappear.
Also Tuesday night, the board's education committee discussed making improvements to the district's gifted program. That may include combining different grade levels of the program. Board members are asking for community input on program changes.


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