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East County Monday, Mar. 1, 2010 7 years ago

Superintendent urges parent involvement in school budget

by: Michael Eng Executive Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — In anticipation of additional budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year and the impending end to the $14.6 million in federal stimulus dollars, Manatee County Superintendent Tim McGonegal today announced a plan for parental involvement in Manatee County Public Schools’ budget process for the next school year.

The district already has launched a new Web site to keep parents informed. It also has partnered with Fund Education Now, an Orlando-based organization started by parents to lobby for financial support for Florida’s public school system.

The district will host a two town hall meetings open to parents. The first will be at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4, at the School Support Center, 215 Manatee Ave. W.

“We need our parents to get involved,” McGonegal said.

McGonegal noted the district may have to cut anywhere from $6 million to $15 million for the upcoming school year. The legislative session, which begins tomorrow and continues through April 30, ultimately will determine the amount the district must shave for next year.

The latest cuts come after the district slashed about $44 million from its operating budget in the last two years. Those cuts, some at the suggestion of parents and the community, included an across-the-board salary reduction — which McGonegal said affected morale.

“Some of our employees felt less valued,” he said. “Our employees have already paid a huge cost. How can we avoid that (again)?"

McGonegal said the district was able to make cuts by eliminating district positions, changing health insurance benefits and hiring one-year contract teachers. Still, with the district growing by about 200 students in each of the last two years, the dollar amount per student has dropped anywhere from 2% to 8%, he said.

Because the federal stimulus money will end after the 2010-11 year, the district fears even harsher cuts in the future.

“We’re calling that the funding cliff,” McGonegal said.

Fund Education Now co-founder Kathleen Oropeza and Manatee branch leader Christine Sket both spoke at Monday’s press conference.

“There is no way our schools can continue to operate without affecting the quality of education for our children,” Sket said.

Sket, a mother at Williams Elementary, said she already has worked to help stop some cuts at the school level.

Oropeza and a few other mothers started Fund Education Now to support their children’s school. One year later, their effort has expanded to include nearly every county in the state.

“This is a grassroots, non-partisan group,” she said. “This is about the future of our kids and our state.”
Sket will host a Fund Education Now town hall at 2 p.m. March 20, at the Parrish YMCA, 12214 U.S. 301 N.

Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].

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