Birmingham Board of Education prepares for more cuts

{}It's a new year, but many of the same cuts are still looming for the Birmingham Board of Education. It's launching into phase two of its financial recovery program. The goal is to save millions of dollars in an operating reserve, but those cuts are coming at a high cost.

School leaders are considering closing about 8 schools along with campus consolidations and layoffs. Tuesday's work session was a step in that direction.

3rd grader, April Robertson and her mom, Hazel, came with a message.{}

"I came to tell them I don't want them to shut our schools down," April told us.

During the work session, the board discussed career academies, new technology, and AP classes - all on the list for goals in the new year. But the decision on how to pay for them all is still tied up in a financial recovery program.

"We only have one school in our neighborhood and it's falling apart," Hazel Boykin, a parent said. "If they close it down and consolidate it with another school and move it out of the neighborhood, then people will move out of the neighborhood."

Their schools are facing big changes. The Birmingham Board must slice $17 million, putting the system in line with state requirements for a one month operating reserve.{}

State appointed Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Ed Richardson says the board already saved $8 million through Phase One. While it's just about half way, the state hopes to cut several million more - in order to make sure Birmingham schools have enough to cover unforeseen expenses.

"Even if we closed as many as 8, we would still have the capacity to handle 31,000 students when we only have 24,500," Dr. Ed Richardson, CFO said. "So we will still have excess capacity. The main thing is, that you are decreasing your operating expenses and have funds to put into the classroom."

"We were very careful and very deliberate that we did not lose a teacher unit or teacher through any reduction in force," Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Birmingham Superintendent said. "And that is the goal moving forward."

Both Dr. Richardson and Dr. Witherspoon said teachers will not be included in this round of layoffs. The details about which campuses will shut down will be presented to the Board during their February 26th work session.{}