(Updated 5/18/2017) Baltimore City Public Schools announced plans to lay off nearly 300 teachers and staff to balance its budget for the coming fiscal year.
The cuts came as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget proposed by school system CEO Sonya Santelises, in an effort to close a $130 million deficit.
Santelises’ proposed budget will be up for a vote by the Baltimore City Public School Board later this month. If adopted, the budget must then be submitted to the Baltimore City Council for final approval. Teachers and staff who would be laid off under the budget would be notified by June 1.
In a letter to the community, Santelises stated that 75 classroom teachers “in core content areas” will be affected. The remainder of the cuts will come from “staff members who do not work in the classroom,” Santelises wrote.
Additional state and city resources allocated to the school system in March allowed school officials to add $59.4 million in revenue and services to help reduce the coming year’s budget gap, but Santelises said cuts are still needed to balance the upcoming school year’s budget.
“Despite all our efforts, cuts were highly likely this year, but they are at a much lower level than 1,000 or more we had originally anticipated,” Santelises wrote.
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said the impact of losing 300 school staff would hurt in a city that chronically registers higher unemployment rates than state and national averages. Baltimore’s unemployment rate in April was 6.4 percent, compared to 4.4 percent nationwide, the lowest rate the U.S. has seen in a decade.
“Baltimore City Public Schools is facing the largest budget gap in its history,” Pugh said at a press conference. “There are, however, far more teachers who will remain employed than projected because of the collaboration among Dr. Santilesis, Governor Hogan and I to mitigate the impact of the structural deficit through increased City and State funding to our public schools. That doesn’t make the proposed layoffs any less difficult, because these are real people and families.”
Santelises, Pugh and other city officials emphasized that the deficit facing the city’s schools stemmed from a structural problem in the formula that determines how Baltimore City Public Schools’ budget is calculated.
In 2016, Governor Larry Hogan established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kerwin Commission, to re-examine how public education is financed in Maryland. Chaired by former University of Maryland System Chancellor Brit Kerwin, the commission will make its final recommendations in December 2017, in time for the 2018 election season.