District to layoff dozens of teachers

Economic reasons blamed for cuts
March 10, 2009 3:18:22 PM PDT
A tight budget is forcing a suburban school district to fire nearly four dozen teachers. The leaders in Community Unit District 300 approved the layoffs Monday night, saying the move was needed to keep the district's budget in the black. More than half of those being let go are first year employees.

This will happen at the end of the school year. District 300 is one of the largest in Illinois. It covers a wide area of the northwest suburbs around Carpentersville.

In 2006, District 300 had to ask voters to cover a $27 million deficit. The district's superintendent says, in these economic times, they can't go back to already burdened taxpayers. The result: the district, like many others businesses and organizations, is having to make difficult decisions.

Classes at liberty elementary school in Carpentersville have an average of 25 students per classroom. It is a decent size, where a teacher can address students' individual needs.

Fewer teachers may mean more students per class. Monday night, District 300's board voted to lay off 32 teachers due to economic reasons.

The district's president says the affected teachers are first year teachers, some just out of college, and others who began teaching as a second career.

"Times are very, very difficult in every sector of our community, and schools are not immune to the conditions that almost everyone else is facing," said Dr. Kenneth Arndt, Community Unit School District 300.

Kollen Hanetho is the president of the local teachers union and has children in the district. Her concern is trying to find placement for the laid off teachers and class size.

"Every class has students that are exceptional and need to be challenged more. We have students that need a little extra support to work up to the state standards," said Hanetho.

Liberty Elementary is scheduled to lose one teacher from the layoff next year.

Tuesday, parents were just learning of the planned layoffs.

"The class sizes right now are ideal. When you start taking away teachers, it affects the overall learning environment," said one parent.

The Illinois Education Association is seeing this happen in other districts. The IEA says Lake Zurich District 95 will cut 47 teachers and Elgin District 46 is planning teacher cuts.

As for District 300, it is unclear how much, if any, class size will be affected next year. But the layoffs come as 14 teachers were let go for poor performance and another 25 resigned after receiving poor performance reviews.