Reporting Ben Simmoneau
BRISTOL Twp., Pa. (CBS) – Frustration and uncertainty are growing by the day for thousands of teachers and support staff in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs.
Layoffs are looming in school districts across the region due to budget cuts in Harrisburg, but nearly three months after those cuts were first introduced by Gov. Tom Corbett, the state’s numbers in Harrisburg are still far from final. Most local school boards have also yet to vote on a budget for next year.
Which means as the school year begins marching toward its June finale, it’s still unclear how many people will lose their jobs this summer.
In the Bristol Township School District, as few as 35 or as many as 70 teachers could be cut. Either way, ninth grade biology teacher Jackie Ford – just three years out of grad school – says she’s likely to be among them.
“I’m looking,” she said. “I want to teach, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Ford says she loves her job because of her students.
“They ask good questions,” she said of the kids. “It’s nice to actually feel like you’re making – at least giving them a little bit of knowledge every now and again.”
But waiting for news has been difficult and filled with anxiety and speculation.
“It is frustrating, and it is just flat out unfair to the people who may be caught in the middle or in the balance here, in particular our kids,” said Dr. Samuel Lee, Bristol Township’s superintendent. “There’s nothing good about the situation we’re in.”
Bristol Township, like just about every district, is considering a number of possibilities to close a $9.7 million budget gap. There will likely be steep cuts in art and music. Teacher layoffs will affect nearly every department.
But district administrators are also considering moving the ninth grade academy into Harry S. Truman High School, cutting advanced placement courses, and scaling back full-day kindergarten to either a partial day or completely eliminating it.
“There’s nothing good here for the children,” Dr. Lee said.
He said it’s unclear when layoff notices would go out. The districts unions are also meeting this week on whether to accept a pay freeze to help lessen the cuts.
“If you lay off all these younger teachers, I don’t think you’re going to get them back,” Ford said. With teaching jobs scarce, she is now looking into other fields like pharmaceuticals.
Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3