Faced with depleted federal stimulus dollars, Metro Nashville Public Schools plans to cut jobs of more than 100 special education paraprofessionals, or trained aides, the school district announced Tuesday.
“While cutting positions is not easy, we have been very careful to review all students’ needs and we will continue to meet those needs,” said Debbie McAdams, the district’s executive director for Exceptional Education, the division that oversees Metro’s special-needs students.
According to Metro’s central office, the district currently employs 632 paraprofessionals who work with students with special needs or disabilities. School officials maintain that the elimination of the 100-plus positions does not signal a redirection from new employment policies or its focus on inclusive special-ed practices; rather, the federal stimulus dollars that paid for the extra special-needs instructors are no longer available.
MNPS leadership anticipates retirees and employees leaving the district or changing positions will reduce the number of employees directly affected; a final number, however, won’t be known until later this summer.
The district plans to mail letters to affected teachers this week and is also holding a job fair, 11 a.m. June 1 at the central office, in hopes of finding other employment opportunities within the district for teachers losing their jobs.
“We have asked all of our departments to share the openings with similar requirements they will have next year,” said June Keel, the district’s assistant superintendent for Human Resources. “We will place as many affected employees as possible in these positions. Some pay more than their current salary.”
The district’s announcement on special education personnel comes as Mayor Karl Dean continues to make his pitch for a 53-cent property tax increase to bolster a proposed $1.71 billion budget for the next fiscal year.
Dean has said without the property tax increase, the district would have to lay off 200 teachers. Instead, the mayor’s proposed budget allows for the hiring of more than 100 additional teachers, many who would work with students who are classified as English Language Learners.
Apparently, the tax hike would not offset vanishing federal stimulus dollars, which the district first began to use in the 2009-10 school year. Metro schools used the federal funds in a number of areas, including efforts to improve special education and special-needs staffing.