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Job cuts expected for Framingham schools April 16, 2009
John Hilliard 508-626-4449 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The schools will have to eliminate the equivalent of more than 20 jobs next year, but officials are depending on attrition and retirements to limit the number of layoffs.

"The issue is whether to lay people off or do it through attrition," said Superintendent Gene Thayer.

On Tuesday night, the School Committee approved $765,000 in cuts, which was part of an overall reduction in their budget to meet a town guideline of $87.3 million for fiscal 2010.

The approved job cuts eliminate the equivalent of 21.6 positions, including several teaching positions: three middle school classroom teachers, one elementary classroom teacher, one elementary school-level Spanish teacher and eight special education teaching assistants.

Reductions would also drop the equivalent of six English-as-a-second-language aides, plus other part-time positions for ESL and Portuguese language arts.

A part-time job overseeing health and physical education for the district would also be cut, but replaced by two teaching positions at the elementary and middle school levels, said Thayer. Those jobs would double as department heads for health at their respective school levels.

Thayer said the reductions, particularly in special education, reduce the schools' flexibility to address students specific needs, such as accommodating students who do not speak English.

Reducing the number of special education aides also may mean reviewing the individual education plans for special ed students enrolled in inclusionary classrooms, he said.

Such classes use a traditional education teacher, a special education teacher and a special ed aide to teach a mix of special ed and traditional students.

Originally, the schools projected a nearly $96.7 million budget, but the town requested a budget of about $87.3 million. School officials have said they plan to present a budget to Town Meeting that meets that lower figure, and cut more than $9 million from the budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

A significant part of Framingham's reductions rely on getting $3.5 million in federal stabilization money, which was announced by Gov. Deval Patrick for Framingham, plus more than $1.1 million in additional federal special education funding, to balance next year's budget.

It is unclear whether these cuts will be sufficient, however. Yesterday, the House of Representatives released its own $27.44 billion budget, which is about half a billion dollars less than the governor's version, according to the Associated Press. Framingham officials used the governor's figures, but have said repeatedly that the final budget numbers could be different if lawmakers choose different priorities.

The House budget retains state education aid to cities and towns, but cuts lottery aid and other assistance funds by about a third. The deep cuts will likely make it harder for communities to balance their municipal budgets, the AP reported.

Thayer said the district still needs to review the House budget, and may need to meet with town officials regarding the local fiscal 2010 budget.

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