Christina School District residents in New Castle County voted down Tuesday’s tax referendum, and school board members say teacher layoffs will likely follow.
Christina is the state’s second largest school district with more than 14,000 students. More than 80% of its budget goes to staff, and officials say the referendum’s failure puts its budget in the red.
“I’m expecting we will have to cut some staff,” said Christina Board Member Fred Polaski. “Four years ago when we had to do this, I believe it was 78 teachers and over 20 paraprofessionals and 10 secretaries, maybe a couple additional people that you have to cut.”
Those staff members were let go in 2015 after two failed referendum tries. A third attempt in 2016 passed, restoring many of those and other budget cuts.
Board Member John Young says district administration will likely propose similar cuts this time around, sacrificing some combination of teachers and programs.
“Will they recommend programmatic cuts that will bring certain teachers to the table because program elimination is being proposed?” asked Young. “Or will they simply look to go in a reverse seniority, i.e. per the teacher’s contracts? Will they follow that process and simply eliminate the teachers last in, first out?”
Young adds he thinks the referendum process itself is broken. He argues the district should not lay off any teachers and should instead join the ACLU in suing the state over how Delaware funds its schools.
“Even if it causes us to go into a trajectory to become fiscally insolvent,” he said. “We should hold the state accountable funding our schools for whatever monies the local district cannot provide.”
Christina’s Wilmington teachers have special protections from any proposed cuts under a state and district plan to reorganize district schools in the city. Young notes cuts will likely be made to schools in surrounding areas.
Superintendent Richard Greg will propose spending reductions to the seven-member school board next Tuesday. May 15th is the deadline for district administration to notify teachers whether or not they will keep their jobs next school year.