PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. - Officials with one Phoenix area school district are dealing with a big budget problem.
According to teachers, the Paradise Valley Unified School District mismanaged money, and the problem stems from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the district received funds from the Governor's Office, in the form of an Enrollment Stabilization Grant. The grant's purpose was to give money to the schools to keep their staffing during the pandemic. The district did not get that funding for the 2021-2022 school year. In addition, funding from the American Rescue Plan also ended. This leaves the district with an approximately $14 million shortfall.
A school board meeting took place on Dec. 1, where officials with meet with the public and hear comments on the situation.
In response to the cuts that have been recommended, teachers say they are already understaffed, and are struggling to keep up.
"It’s always top heavy. The top is the one who made the problems. [It] wasn’t our fault. It’s always the people in the trenches doing all do the work, and then we are the ones cut," said Brittany Ross, a part-time Accounting Clerk at Desert Shadow Elementary School. "We have a skeleton crew. Of course I would love to keep my job. I understand it, though, if they do it. They’ve done it before. It’s not a good idea, but it is what it is."
A decision could be made before the district's winter break.N
It was standing room only during a board meeting for the district, as dozens of teachers filled the room for public discussions on the shortfall. The room was so full, in fact, that some had to listen in on the meeting from outside.
District officials have created a budget task force to address the shortfall, and the task force recommended ongoing reductions to save money, including:
- Giving teachers a one-day furlough
- Reduce custodial hours by two hours per day
- Remove elementary accounting clerk positions, of which there are 14
- Reduce college and career specialists to same as teachers contract days
Other controversial recommendations include reducing some social emotional learning specialists, behavioral specialists, and instructional coach positions.