With just weeks left until school starts again, Broward County School Board members are having to make some tough choices to fill a multimillion-dollar hole in the budget.
Social studies teacher Michael Levinson is not among the hundreds of employees who could lose their jobs this fall, but he said it is hard not to be affected by the news.
"It's a proposal that disturbs a lot of teachers," Levinson said. "I think that we've got to do the best that we can. We're looking at the children."
Levinson joined other teachers and board members at the regularly scheduled school board meeting. While back to school issues dominated, the potential cuts loomed over the crowd.
The proposed $2.8 billion budget would cut more than 1,700 teaching jobs and nearly 600 non-teacher jobs. Elementary schools would lose electives, and 55 schools would lose their libraries. Art would be axed in 44 schools, and music programs would be chopped in 26. Thirty schools would lose their gyms.
"It's not a good situation for Broward County Public Schools. It's not a good situation for the classroom," said School Board member Robin Bartleman.
It is also not a good situation considering the relative health of the neighboring school districts. Palm Beach County is giving teachers a $500 raise, and Miami-Dade County is not firing a single teacher. Those districts set aside millions of dollars in federal stimulus money from last year in a two-part payment. Broward County used its money all at once.
"We made a decision (that) we're going to do everything we can to meet class size. They held the penalty over our head," Bartleman said.
Bartleman said other districts will face similar cuts when their money runs out next year. The Miami-Dade County Public Schools said that likely won't be the case thanks to severe cuts in the administrative offices, which saved vital teaching jobs and electives.