By Jon Delano, KDKA Political Editor
BETHEL PARK (KDKA) — Unhappy students and parents protested the elimination of certain music programs in Bethel Park Wednesday night.
It’s a spring ritual likely to spread as school boards wrestle with how to balance budgets in the face of Governor Corbett’s education cuts.
“It’s significantly going to cut into programs and services,” says Jon Rupert, business manager for the Highlands School District.
Districts say they are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Believe it or not, school districts are not allowed to lay off teachers for economic reasons to get a balanced budget. Instead, in order to furlough teachers, they must eliminate entire programs.
It’s a law that drives school administrators crazy.
“How do you come in with a budget that’s not negative to submit to the state when your hands are tied and you can’t eliminate just one person from a department or you cannot eliminate one person from a grade level,” Dr. Janet Sardon, West Mifflin Area superintendent, said.
Sardon says the current approach hurts education.
“Who eliminates the entire art department, but in the state we’re in and the financial circumstances that we’re in, we have to do something,” she said.
West Mifflin is laying off 52 employees, including 28 teachers, by eliminating programs like business classes, elementary instrumental music, French, and its Freshmen Academy.
“It just hurts us. How do you continue to run programs and continue to have good programs for children if that’s how you have to run, by eliminating everything versus just some?”
Now, Governor Corbett has proposed a bill that would let school districts furlough individual teachers for economic reasons without having to eliminate the entire department or program.
But that bill is still stuck in committee in the state legislature.
And school districts say they are running out of time — as balanced budgets are due in June.