As Baltimore City Council members consider ways to divert more money to city schools, district officials said Tuesday it's too late to prevent layoffs for as many as 300 teachers and administrators.
School district officials told members of the City Council on Tuesday they're bound to notify affected personnel in two weeks, leaving no time to stop the impending layoffs.
Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young has proposed redirecting $10 million from the police department to the school district.
"How would that affect the 300 staff members?" he asked during a meeting of the council's budget and appropriations committee.
"We might be able to call teachers back," said Alison Perkins-Cohen, chief-of-staff to schools CEO Sonja Santelises. "We couldn't really prevent it from happening this summer."
Santelises announced plans Friday to layoff as many as 300 teachers and administrators to balance a $1.31 billion budget for next year. Administrators say they're bound by union contracts to notify any affected employees by June 1.
Perkins-Cohen also revealed new details about the layoff proposal, saying school librarians, guidance counselors and assistant principals would be affected. The layoffs include fewer than 75 teachers in core subjects such as science and English. Some 50 employees will be laid off from the central office.
The job cuts would bring a third straight year of layoffs to the school district, though cuts in recent years did not include teachers. Santelises said she would seek to restore those jobs in future years.
"Normal should not be that half the schools don't have school librarians," she told the committee.
Before school officials presented their budget plans Tuesday, council members were considering cuts to the city budget to free up money for the schools.
City budget officials testified that the current year's budget is running a surplus of $12 million, leaving open the possibility some of that money could be rolled over for next year's schools budget. And several council members, including Young and budget chairman Eric T. Costello, suggested the city could cut as much as $13 million from $50 million that budget officials have set aside in case the city loses a lawsuit over retiree benefits filed by the police union.
School district officials said any additional money would help prevent the prospect of a second round of layoffs in the fall when the school year starts. The district could see its statefunding shrink further if fewer students show up for classes in the fall.
The budget has been a matter of debate and worry among school district employees ever since Santelises revealed in January that the school system faced a $130 million shortfall. She warned then that there could be 1,000 people laid off. But four months later, after state and city legislators pledged nearly $60 million to help narrow the budget gap, Santelises has scaled back the layoffs.
Meanwhile, Baltimore's school board and teachers union announced Tuesday they are at an impasse after 14 months of contract negotiations. The two sides issued a joint statement Tuesday afternoon saying that they are "headed into mediation."
The impasse comes as the city school board is pressing to reduce costs on salaries and benefits because of the budget shortfall. Santelises said the school district and union reached an agreement on health benefits in the new contract, but they remain stuck on compensation.
The two sides jointly filed requests for mediation, she said. The request was made Monday with the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board, asking for an impasse to be declared.
Teacher salaries have increased since the 2010 approval of an innovative contract that gave teachers the ability to move more quickly up a pay scale. Instead of basing pay on the number of years of experience in teaching and on additional degrees, city teachers are now paid based on their achievement in the classroom, professional development and extra duties they take on.
City teachers now have some of the highest beginning and mid-career salaries in the state.
"Over the past several years, we have seen the impact dedicated teachers have on our youth," said Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English in the statement. "The BTU wants to ensure that Baltimore City teachers are able to continue their path to professional growth and development that only works to enhance the academic success of our youth."