Duquesne to transfer grades 7, 8
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The state board of control overseeing the Duquesne City School District approved a $15 million budget that furloughed 10 teachers, eliminated grades seven and eight and counts on at least an additional $936,477 in state funding, even though the additional funds have not been approved by the Legislature.
The teaching jobs eliminated are those no longer needed because the state plans to send Duquesne's seventh- and eighth-grade students to East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area school districts in the fall.
Duquesne's high school students have attended those districts on a tuition basis since 2007 when Duquesne High School closed.
School districts are supposed to adopt budgets based on the local, state and federal revenues that are anticipated for the budget year. The basic education subsidy slated for Duquesne by Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget and the Republican legislators' plan is about $8.6 million.
But, board of control chairman Francis Barnes said Duquesne could reasonably include the additional $936,477 -- the amount of its budget shortfall -- because it is among four distressed districts in the state that stand to gain additional funding if House Bill 1307, known as the fiscal recovery bill, is approved by the state House. It has already passed the Senate.
In addition to needing the extra funding to balance its budget, Duquesne also needs approval of an amendment attached to HB1307 that lifts the caps on the number of Duquesne students who can attend East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area.
The current limit caps at 165 students. There are about that number of Duquesne high school students currently attending West Mifflin.
Duquesne teachers' union President Stan Whiteman, who was among the furloughed teachers, questioned how the board could move ahead with its plans when the necessary state legislation had not been passed.
Mr. Barnes said the board had no choice since it had to approve a balanced budget before the end of the month.
"If we get less than that or nothing, we will come back and cut. But we do not anticipate that to happen," Mr. Barnes said.
Among those furloughed were six classroom teachers for grades seven and eight, and music, physical education, technology and special education teachers. An additional teacher retired and is not being replaced.
In addition, the board also eliminated three custodians, six administrators, three personal care aides, a student services assistant and some academic coaches.
The spending plan calls for paying $9,800 in tuition for each Duquesne student sent to East Allegheny or West Mifflin -- an amount that West Mifflin school directors have already said they will not accept without a court challenge.
Earlier this year as plans were unveiled to dismantle Duquesne's seventh and eighth grade and send students to the neighboring districts, West Mifflin school directors said they would not accept more Duquesne students without an increase in the tuition rate.
West Mifflin officials said their per-pupil costs were between $13,000 and $14,000. The board authorized its solicitor to seek a court injunction against the transfer if the state education department attempted to force the district to take additional Duquesne students without increasing the tuition.
First Published June 27, 2012 12:00 am