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Will Fairfield's Schools Lose Teachers?

Carolyn Richmond aims to save the money of Fairfield’s taxpayers. That’s why the Fairfield Representative Town Meeting member proposed even deeper cuts in the school district’s funding for next year. But Fairfield mom Christine Vitale is worried that Richmond and others looking for ways to trim the budget may not realize the impact of those cuts.

“I think if class sizes were 25 and above, education would absolutely be affected,” Vitale said. “I think you’re really shortchanging our children and shortchanging our town.”

The Board of Education asked for a $6.9 million increase in funding for the next school year, or about 4.9 percent more than they received this school year. But the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance already trimmed the increase by about $2 million . At Monday night’s meeting, Richmond suggested cutting another $1.2 million, leaving it with an increase of about $3.7 million.The board will make their final decision May 3.

“Anything that directly affects the students, we should never, ever cut,” Richmond said. “But I think we need to look outside the classroom, that are simply there for various improvements.”

The RTM and other town boards cannot make specific cuts to the school district’s spending. Town boards can only limit the total amount of funds the schools receive. In her pitch to her fellow legislators, Richmond suggested the district could cut school psychologists or central office administrators rather than teachers.

Superintendent David Title and the Board of Education will need to find ways to work with what the town bodies allocate. Title said the only areas in which he could reduce spending would be in staffing. Further cuts could mean laying off teachers, especially because current teachers will get a contractually obligated pay increase next year that they agreed to not take in 2010-11.

Anne Pasco, president of the Fairfield Education Association, the teachers’ union, said these cuts would mean either limits in music and art education or larger class sizes. The district’s previous plan called for class sizes as high as 25 for elementary schools, and maximums of 35 at middle and high schools. Pasco  said further budget cuts could send those figures close to 30.

“You look at a class of 25 — you could have several children in there that have the need  for one-one-one instruction, but the teacher still has 25, 26 or 27 children,” Pasco said. “It is alarming, but if that’s what the community wants, then the educators will have to just do what we do — teach.”

Do you think Fairfield should cut teachers? Or should the Board of Education find other ways to trim spending? Start the conversation in the comments below.

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