School District U-46 approves cuts

District U46 school board in Elgin (file)

March 15, 2010 8:55:07 PM PDT
Massive cuts, including the layoffs of about 1,000 employees, were approved Monday night at the state's second largest school district.

District U-46, which serves more than 40,000 students in 11 communities, is just the latest of many school systems feeling the fallout from the state's budget mess.

The school board met in Elgin on Monday night. The 800-seat auditorium was standing room only, filled with students and district employees. Some of them, like 24-year employee Lindsay Harris, are losing their jobs.

"There's got to be other means aside from people's lives and livelihood, so if they can find those, we hope they do. Because I have given my life. My kids are a product of U-46," said Harris.

Board members say they have spent months going over the numbers and trying to save as many programs and jobs as they can. But with an expected reduction of millions of dollars in state funding, they say they have no choice but to cut programs that will negatively impact kids and classrooms.

"Next year our school district will not look like it does today. Next year our kids won't have the same opportunities," said Ken Kaczynski, District U-46, school board president.

The proposed cuts include a total of 1,079 district employees, including 732 teachers, mostly those with the least seniority; and program cuts for a total of $44 million.

"These are teachers that we have invested through our award-winning teacher-mentoring program. So we have invested in them, we've sent them to training and we're seeing them walk out the door, possibly," said Dr. Jose Torres, District U-46 superintendent.

Some of the teachers like Streamwood high school choir director David Hain have been lauded for starting successful programs. And despite being tenured, he's losing his job.

"I am terrified that the program we have built will no longer exist next year because the entire music faculty is erased," said Hain.

"There needs to be more responsibility in the school district, in the state, on all levels, just to make sure that we don't need to have this kind of drastic cutting," said Kaitlyn McCain, student.

The board voted to approve all of the cuts with one minor exception involving food service employees. The superintendent tells ABC7 he hopes to bring back 300 or 400 teachers that were cut next year, once the state's education funding is cleared up.