Councilman: Sacrifice student assignment plan to save jobs

Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 4:34pm

For At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard, it’s sad enough Metro school budget cuts will likely outsource custodians and reduce wages for bus drivers, some of the district’s lowest-paid employees. 

But making the matter even more frustrating, he said, is that a new student rezoning plan, implemented this school year, requires $5.5 million in annual funds, money he contends could have been used to protect janitorial jobs and preserve the hours of bus drivers.

“If we did not have that rezoning plan, which now segregates poor students and puts high concentrations of poor students into schools, then you now have additional resources,” Maynard, who opposed the plan from the outset, told The City Paper.

“That money could have been used so that we would not have to lay off custodians, so we would not have to cut hours for bus drivers,” he said.

Approved by a 5-4 vote in the summer of 2008 — prior to the arrival of Director of Schools Jesse Register — the hotly debated rezoning plan was billed by supporters as a way to promote “neighborhood schools” by allowing students to attend schools closer to their homes. It went into effect during the current 2009-2010 school year.

The most dramatic changes were felt in the Hillwood and Pearl-Cohn clusters. For years, children living in the MetroCenter area, mostly African-American students, had been bused across town to attend Hillwood High School, situated in the more affluent West Meade area. Under the new plan, those students are now zoned for Pearl-Cohn, though they still have the choice to attend Hillwood, and many are doing so.

To compensate for the achievement gap historically found between the two clusters, the board agreed to pump an extra $5.5 million in resources into the Pearl-Cohn cluster on a yearly basis.

The proposed MNPS budget for the next fiscal year, meanwhile, would outsource some 600 custodial positions, reduce the hours of bus drivers and lay off 24 central office employees. Cuts would net $10.9 million in total savings.

“Look at the line items of the budget,” Maynard said. “By laying off the custodians you would save $5.1 million. Turn the page, and on the same budget, these additional resources for the rezoning plan are $5.5 million. If the school board had not passed this rezoning plan then we would not have to lay off those custodians.”

Maynard said he intends to express these thoughts to Register and the school board when they come before the council’s Budget and Finance Committee during budget hearings.

“It’s a misguided policy that now has its economic ramifications that nobody wants to talk about,” Maynard said of the new student assignment plan. 

7 Comments on this post:

By: ucan on 4/15/10 at 4:05

It looks like Maynard is looking for votes. The 5.5 million will be infused no matter what, because of the rezoning Pearl-Cohn cluster is getting it. At least we are saving tons of money on not busing kids across the city. Do away with the rezoning, then you would have to calculate the extra cost into the budget for drivers, gas, and buses. Looks to me he is grandstanding.

By: michael thomas on 4/16/10 at 5:52

This is what's wrong with the propose school budget. There is no cost for monitoring the outsourced custodial contract into this budget,therefore hiding the true financial cost of outsorcing. there was no cost benfit-benefit analysis done that proves that these changes will actually save the money that jessie register says it does. there are $11.6 million in professional service contracts in the budget-up from $9.9 million in 2007. that's a 17% increase in three years. these are not for teachers,so what are those contracts for? once you outsorce this is what will happen to the schools and students. lose control over who works in the school. lose public safety. end up paying for raises for jessie register and high paid administrators. Now if you think that's grandstanding i think not. This is the facts. If you have a child in school you should be concerned. The truth.

By: global_citizen on 4/16/10 at 6:48

If there's an achievement gap between Hillwood and Pearl-Cohn (a way of saying that Pearl-Cohn is badly underperforming), then let's look at why Pearl-Cohn is underperforming instead of reshuffling those students to other schools.

I believe the place to look is the principals.

Karl Lang, who up until recently was principal at Hillwood, is a very good administrator who cares about his students, knows how to achieve discipline, and shows good leadership and organizational skills.

Sadly, I don't believe any of those things can be said about Marva Woods, the current and long-time principal at Pearl-Cohn.

And not addressing that directly seems to be the elephant in the room.

By: openminded303 on 4/16/10 at 8:15

I am sure that Mr. Register could come up with those funds if he wanted to. I still believe that the schools "headquarters" offices are overloaded. Instead of firing the custodians maybe they should look at other higher paying positions that have not been there as long They just hired a new person to look for grants, at approx. $100,000 per year, maybe she can find a grant to save those jobs.

By: pswindle on 4/16/10 at 8:07

Can the Council stop Metero from firing those employees?

By: richgoose on 4/18/10 at 2:39

I had a nightmare! I dreamed that I was unable to afford private school tuition and had to place my kids in the MNPS.

I wonder what percentage of parents with children in the MNPS pay no federal income tax?

By: Still Concerned on 4/26/10 at 5:30

I'm amazed the net isn't awash with parents and school officials worried about what this change to janitorial services will mean for our children's safety. An even more constantly changing service staff, less familiarity with the school staff. Are we putting money over the safety of the kids ? Is this the right position to go with lowest bid ?
I highly question the decision making behind this one when I am usually silently contemplative of local politics.