Lafayette superintendent asks board to reconsider cutting jobs

Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper wants the School Board to save the jobs of all teachers and the more than 100 other jobs the board has already cut from the budget.

Cooper outlined his request to the board in a summary attached to the agenda of the board’s 4 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Over the past few weeks, the board has met to whittle what was a $23.5 million shortfall down to a $7.3 million funding gap. Cooper also proposed that the board dip into its rainy day fund to cover the $7.3 million — a move the School Board rejected last week.

The board began a review of the general fund in mid-May, though last month it began a lengthy, account-by-account review of the budget, which has slowed down the process. As a result, the board is skipping ahead in the general fund budget to tackle the accounts related to instructional staff and teacher positions.

Also in the summary, Cooper said he doesn’t want the board to cut any personnel in the upcoming school year, including those positions the board already cut from the general fund: the community collaborations and partnerships director and department secretary; four deans of students; in-school suspension paraprofessionals, alternative education teachers, assistant principals and counselors; and unfilled electrician and maintenance positions.

He further requested that the board fund 37 instructional strategist positions, which will cost $2.8 million.

Cooper also requested that the board not change the student-teacher ratio, except to lower the ratio to 15 to 1 at the district’s only F-rated school, J.W. Faulk Elementary. Increasing the ratios by two students would save about $3 million.

Last week, a majority of the board opposed taking $7.3 million from the $66 million rainy day fund — a reserve account in the general fund set aside to cover operating expenses in cases of financial emergencies. Board policy requires that the board retain at least three months worth of operating expenses in the account. Prior attempts to change the policy to two or 21/2 months also have failed. According to Cooper, using the $7.3 million leaves a financial cushion in the rainy day fund to cover about 2.65 months of operating expenses.

While a majority of the board members rejected using more than $7 million from the rainy day fund last week, several board members voiced their intentions to protect employees from layoffs this year.

Those same board members have warned that the fate of some jobs may be in jeopardy in the 2015-16 school year because a $20 million shortfall is projected.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.