Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Updated March 25. The District 65 School Board decided on March 23 to issue reduction in force (RIF) notices to 29 non-tenured teachers as part of an effort to balance the budget for school year 2010-11. That averages out to about two teachers per school building. 

Under state law, if a school district intends to terminate a non-tenured teacher, a RIF notice must be given to that teacher 45 days before the end of a school year. Many school districts throughout the State have been issuing RIF notices to teachers in light of the State’s potential cut of as much as $1.3 billion in education funding for 2010-11. 

In recent School Board meetings, Mary Brown, chief financial officer, said the State may not come through with between $1.9 to $4.7 million in anticipated funds for District 65 in the 2010-11 school year. When added to a previously projected deficit of $800,000, these potential cuts in State funding would require the District to address a potential deficit of between $2.7 and $5.5 million for next year. 

“This evening the Board of Education had to take action that we knew would not be easy,” said Board President Keith Terry. “Taking action at this time is necessary because of legal notice timelines for teachers identified during a reduction in force as required by the Illinois State Code and the teachers’ contract.” 

Mr. Terry said the District was able to preserve jobs for more teachers than originally thought possible due to the good job the administration and Board have done in managing the District’s finances. He added, “The superintendent and his staff will continue working throughout the coming months to develop budget recommendations that give us flexibility to call back many of the teachers who are on the list tonight.” 

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “Tonight, we like other districts in the State are engaging in a reduction in teaching force. It is not something I say with anything but the greatest remorse. We are talking about people we care about. I want our community to know there is no solace to be found in this decision. 

“I hope that they know that because teachers represent the largest part of our workforce – as it should be – we cannot get through this budget crisis without some impact to our teaching force which will impact all of us.” 

He added that because of Board guidance and sound fiscal practices in the past, the teacher reductions issued by District 65 are much less in terms of percentages and absolute numbers than occurring in other school districts in the State. 

Dr. Murphy said teachers will receive RIF notices this week and will be given an opportunity to meet with him, the assistant superintendent and human resource director. He said teachers will be advised that the District will continue to explore other areas of the budget that “if at all possible, we can restore some of their jobs.” 

Jean Luft, president of the District Educators Council (the teachers union) said, “Everyone in this room has a heavy heart. Our thoughts and support go out to the teachers who will be receiving RIF notices. Up to 17,000 Illinois teachers may receive pink slips because of our state’s lack of funding for education. Our goal in District 65 and across the State is to get all of those teachers back into the classroom for next August.” 

The administration is scheduled to present two budget scenarios to the Board’s Finance Committee in May, one to address a potential deficit of $2.7 million, and the second to address a potential deficit of $5.5 million. 

“In the coming months, as we scrutinize and develop our budget, we will be trying to preserve the programs, services and supports that are critical to effective schools.” Dr. Murphy said. “And we know that we have to continue offering the kind of operational services necessary for the District to do this work in a well planned, fiscally sound manner.” 

Mr. Terry said, “The teacher reductions in force approved this evening will not change class size guidelines for our District. They do not result in major programmatic changes either.” 

Mr. Terry, Dr. Murphy and Ms. Luft all encouraged members of the community to contact State legislators to urge them to restore education funding. Ms. Luft said, “Our nation has bailed out banks, stockbrokers and car companies, but not schools and education. I urge every member of our community to contact your state legislators and lobby for fair funding for public education.”