Nearly 100 Naugatuck teachers – joined by students and parents – organized a mass rally yesterday evening to express their concern about a projected $1.3 million budget shortfall that could mean teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.
They marched in front of the high school prior to a board of education subcommittee meeting to discuss possible cuts to make up the budget shortfall. Members of the Naugatuck Teachers League (NTL) wore black t-shirts, imprinted in yellow with the words, “Where did the money go?” Board of education members were met by teachers, students, and parents carrying signs and calling out, “Save our schools.”
Listen to parent Danielle LoCascio talk about why she is supporting the teachers.
“Our goal was to deliver a message to the board about the serious impact of the budget shortfall on the quality of education in Naugatuck,” says NTL President George Macary. “The board wants concessions from teachers and has threatened us with layoffs and furloughs to solve the budget deficit.”
If that happens, it could mean increased class sizes for all grades. The current class size for kindergarten through grade six averages 18 to 20 students, while in higher grades it averages approximately 25 to 29 students. Students say that if teachers are laid off — and class sizes increase — teachers will likely find it tougher to have time to work with those students who need extra one-on-one help.
Macary adds that teachers already made concessions – such as agreeing to higher insurance premiums – during NTL’s three-year contract. He says teachers and students shouldn’t be forced to make up for a budget gap they didn’t cause.
“No one is taking responsibility or finding real solutions – instead they blame teachers for the problem — when in reality it appears the board mishandled their budget,” adds Macary.
Listen to NTL President George Macary talk about the budget shortfall and the reaction from the superintendent and board of education.
NTL Vice President Charles Marenghi says the budget shortfall is the result of “poor budget forecasting” by the board. “They didn’t budget enough money for some of their fixed costs.”
At the Monday meeting, the superintendent proposed a cost-savings plan he claims will make up for almost all but $300,000 of the deficit and avoid teacher layoffs – but not without other concessions from teachers.
Macary says the superintendent is counting on phantom savings — the vast majority of which are based on a false choice of teachers agreeing to concessions or facing layoffs. “In short, the proposal still puts the burden on teachers instead of proposing real solutions to close the budget gap.”
The NTL has proposed some alternative budget solutions to the board, such as tapping the town’s rainy day fund or seeking a loan for roof repair cost overruns, but so far those have been rejected.
A full board meeting on the budget issue is scheduled for Thursday.