NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk School Board will be asking the city for more than $10 million to balance next year’s budget.
The $329 million spending plan was approved by the board Wednesday after nearly a month of discussion and many complaints from the public over teacher cuts.
Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone’s plan would have dissolved 60-full time positions, but the board voted to save nine gifted resource teachers before the final vote.
The proposal now makes cuts to about 50 positions, including 22 elementary art, music and physical education teachers.
Peggy Scott, a grandparent and student advocate, believes the cuts will hurt students.
“Music teaches you how to count. Art teaches you how to express yourself,” said Scott. “Our children have to go up against other children in other areas that have all of these attributes when we are applying to college, and we are going to have none of those.”
Dr. Noelle Gabriel, the only board member to vote against the budget, tried to save the positions. Her effort got little support.
“I wanted to try as best as I could to try and preserve some of those positions to maintain a certain level of service to our students,” said Gabriel.
The budget also does away with seven reading and math teachers, including four specialists, and eight guidance counselors.
The proposal accounts for increasing healthcare and retirement costs and a study into teacher pay and compensation.
Dr. Boone says the budget isn’t perfect, but it addresses the district’s needs at a time of declining enrollment. The district estimates 800 fewer students will attend Norfolk Public Schools in two years time.
Lower enrollment means less money from the state, according to board chairman Rodney Jordan.
“The state provides these resources, but at the level the state provides them, it does not meet the needs of what the local community feels is important in order to make sure our children have an excellent education,” said Jordan.
The school district was already planning to ask the city for $9.5 million in funding. The extra nine gifted resource teaches add $630,000 to the request.
Dr. Boone also raised concern about the White House’s proposed budget. She says proposed cuts to federal education programs, if approved, could cost the district another $5 million come Oct. 1.
“We are just at the beginning of what will be a potentially significant shift in funding for public education, particularly those federal dollars.”