Ohio

Eye on Education

Years of Budget Cuts Has Meant Fewer Teachers, Courses in Ohio

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Cleveland teacher Gregory Dore says when he started teaching a decade ago, he figured it was one of the most stable jobs. He's been laid off four times in the past three years.

Ohio school districts have been dealing with fewer dollars from the state and federal government for years. That’s meant cutting back on teachers, which in turn leads to higher class sizes and fewer course offerings.

But the Associated Press reports that trend has continued for years, compounding to a 6 percent loss in the number of full-time teachers in Ohio public schools over a decade.

Ohio Department of Education statistics show full-time public-school teachers totaled 115,453 statewide in 2001-2002, then were at 108,888 by 2010-11 after falling to 107,924 in 2007-08 amid the financial meltdown.Enrollment fell slightly between 2001 and 2010-11, by about 6,000 students, to nearly 1.75 million statewide. A recent AP sampling of 30 school districts across Ohio found that 24 reported fewer teachers compared with last academic year, with four districts increasing teaching staff and two staying the same.

The AP reports this trend isn’t unique to Ohio. Other states, including California and Michigan, have been dealing with similar cut backs.

The future isn’t likely to bring any increased state support for schools. Governor John Kasich said he’s going to present a plan to revise the way schools are funded in the state in the early Spring, but that plan probably won’t include new or additional funding for schools. Instead, it’s expected to find new ways to divvy up existing funds among public, charter and voucher programs.

Schools also continue to struggle to pass additional school levies.

Unions have long been arguing to keep more teachers in the classroom. They say tougher teaching standards and stricter evaluations for teachers will be even harder to deal with as class sizes grow.

“We feel strongly that it’s important to keep enough teachers to meet the individual needs of the students,” said Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. “Just in general, when you start cutting programs like arts and electives, you’re not developing the whole child. We’re developing kids who are good at taking tests, not developing their full potential.”

But personnel costs tend to take up the largest chunk of a district’s budget, so cash-strapped times tend to mean more layoffs, and that means the number of teachers isn’t likely to increase any time soon.

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