The Caddo Parish School Board approved a $492 million budget for the 2011-2012 school year Tuesday evening. That budget includes the layoffs of over 100 staff members and the cut of another 100 vacant positions.
Still minutes before the school board meeting began, protestors stood outside with signs looking for support to reverse the decision to layoff Caddo Parish Public Schools employees.
Rachel Bailey was one of the protestors holding a sign in support for two office clerks that were laid off from Eden Gardens Elementary School. "It's affected us personally and our children personally. Those ladies they don't just do paperwork and absentee records, they love our kids. They are caregivers," she said.
Before the meeting began, the Caddo Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel announced that they filed a lawsuit against the board for their decision and method of laying off employees.
Jackie Lansdale, president of the federation, hopes they "do the right thing" for the students to make sure they have quality employees at their schoolhouses and change their decision to layoff employees at the schools.
"What we do ask is this time not be wasted by the school board and the administration that they take a look at the lawsuit," said Jon Landry, the attorney for the federation. "They have the opportunity before it goes in the hands of the judge to do the right thing."
Before the budget vote Tuesday evening, Caddo Schools Superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins said there is no easy solution to address these budget issues. "Hard decisions have to be made regardless of the processes that are put in place."
That difficult decision was made with the vote Tuesday night as federal and state funding remains flat and retirement and healthcare costs increase. "We've gotten about halfway where we need to be. We originally started with a projected for spending of $30 million, and we cut that down to around $14 million," said Jim Lee, Director of Finance for Caddo Parish Public Schools. "We still need to try to get back to about as close as we can and not spending more than we take in."
With that excess amount of spending, the school district will still have to dip into their reserve fund for this year's budget, which is the fourth year in the row they have had to do so.
Lee said the school district will continue to make changes over the next few school years to reach their goal of not turning to their reserve funds for funding.