School cuts: Need to cut teaching staff finally arrives 2009.03.04

Rising costs, falling revenue.

That’s been the story of school finances for years in Morenci, particularly when the district was hit by two coinciding factors: declining enrollment and diminishing state support due to falling sales tax revenue.

Layoffs were becoming nearly an annual story several years ago, but that stopped in 2004, at least as far as classroom teachers were involved.

School superintendent Kyle Griffith has stated year after year that his goal is to spare the classroom. He and the board have worked diligently to make budgets cuts in many areas—such as administrative pay and duties—while avoiding cuts to the teaching staff.

But costs continue to rise—health care, in particular—and revenue continues to fall as enrollment declines and the economy takes a nosedive. The shortfall finally caught up and next year cuts to the teaching staff cannot be avoided.

The district’s cash reserves continue to dwindle each year with budgets in the red, and it’s finally time to face the dreaded step of announcing layoff notices and reductions in hours.

Administrators will be blunt about the staff cuts. They know the action isn’t the best for students, but there’s little choice. As enrollment declines, the staff must be adjusted to fit the size of the school population.

Teachers will be shifted into new positions and asked to do more to continue providing a quality education.

We await the day for changes in the regional economy, when schools are given increased funding to cover rising costs. That transformation could also signal a change in direction for enrollment numbers and reverse the loss of students that most districts in this area are experiencing.

Until then, the situation will continue to be tough for Morenci’s school staff. We appreciate the efforts of administrators to do the best possible with what they’re given.