10 May Special Ed Teacher Layoffs in DISD? (TX)

May 10, 2010

By: Diane Rado
Source: The Dallas Morning News

The future of special education teachers in Dallas ISD is uncertain, with the district changing the way it calculates how many special needs teachers are required and opening the door for layoffs.

AFT-Alliance president Rena Honea said the staffing formula change led DISD to the conclusion that it is overstaffed in the area of special education. As a result, 72 or 73 "inclusion" teachers who work with special education students in regular classes, "are slated to be let go" over a two-year period, Honea said, as well as 49 special education teaching assistants. Honea said she got that information from one of DISD’s chief executives.
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DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said Friday that he had not heard those numbers.

"In terms of whether anyone will be laid off, that is too early to tell," Dahlander said. "There is a possibility of some positions being lost, but there’s also the possibility that positions won’t be lost, depending on the formula, attrition," and other factors.

Honea said she will be asking about the situation next week, when she and other representatives from Dallas teacher and administrator associations meet Monday with DISD chief finance officer Larry Throm to discuss the budget for next school year.

In addition, DISD’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to discuss next year’s budget at its board briefing meeting on Thursday.

The meeting agenda is posted on DISD’s web site, but there are no back-up documents to provide the public with more information about an item on the agenda titled: "2010-2011 Budget / Tax Rate (No Action)."

Asked earlier this week if DISD plans to ask voters to approve an increase in the district’s tax rate, Supt. Michael Hinojosa did not answer the question directly, instead saying: "We’re going to talk about the budget next week, and I don’t want to get in front of the board on that."

Financial documents posted online show that as of March 31, 2010, the district is posting about a $2-million deficit in its main operating accounts.

Letting go more than 100 special education teachers and teaching assistants could save the district several million dollars, based on rough estimates of salaries paid to those staffers. "That’s a big chunk of change," Honea said.<br /& gt;

Dahlander said that special education teachers were notified two months ago that the district was changing its staffing formula from one based on minutes spent with students to a teacher-student ratio. The changes are in keeping with special education law, Dahlander said.

"They were given a letter letting them know we were moving away from minutes to a student-to-teacher formula, and as a result, during the next couple of months this will be reviewed and it can impact them down the road," Dahlander said.

There has been talk swirling that DISD may be planning to lay off teachers in a "reduction in force" based on a declining financial condition. The district has denied that a so-called RIF would take place next school year.

However, under school board policy, teacher layoffs also can be made due to a "program change," such as a reorganization of staffing patterns in a program. The changes made in the special education program would fit into that category.

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