Budget Cuts Blamed For Ozark Teacher Layoffs

With sequestration on Capitol Hill, cuts were seen across the board.
Public education was no exception. Now the effects are being felt all the way in Ozark.

Ozark City Schools Superintendent Michael Lenhart said, "We are anticipating about a $135,000 cut in our federal funds."

The bad news for Ozark City school's bottom line doesn't end there.
The next blow came from closer to home, at the state level.

Lenhart said, "They gave the teachers a 2 percent pay raise, but they never changed the total amount of money they were going to give to education. So if you give the teachers a 2 percent pay raise, that's got to come out of the hide somewhere."

It's not hard to see those factors add up to a major lack of funding.

Lenhart said, "And we end up probably having to let 7 teachers go. Now, 5 we actually let go 2 are retirements that we are just not going to fill those positions."

Pink slips were only given to teachers that taught kindergarten through fifth grade, but their absence will be felt beyond their grade level.

Lenhart said, "We have 7 less teachers to serve the same amount or more students. So our class sizes have gone up quite a bit. Elementary schools is probably going to be around 25 to 30. The middle school we are trying to keep right at 30. But some of the high school classes go up into the 40s."

Even with the added class load, Lenhart has faith in his staff.

Lenhart said, "Teachers know they are going to have larger classes and we have great teachers. They are going to rise to the task and do the best job they can."

A lesson he hopes our lawmakers will hear.

"Our state needs to do better."

Ozark schools are being hit harder by the cuts because they have seen a drop in enrollment because of a changing demographic in Ozark.

But, to make up for some of the shortfall, high school students have been scheduled to take online courses. That way student’s can take Alabama approved foreign language and history courses without a teacher’s daily instruction.

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