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Montgomery schools plan for further budget cuts

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By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010

An extra student might have to squeeze into Montgomery County classrooms next year, and county schools are preparing for other cuts that go beyond the budget approved last month by the Montgomery County Board of Education, officials said Wednesday.

The plans are being made as part of the annual budget allocations to individual schools within the system. They also are circulating immediately before County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announces his countywide budget proposal Monday. The $2.3 billion budget that the school board passed last month includes few major program cuts, but at the time Superintendent Jerry D. Weast listed proposed cuts he said could result from a decrease in county funding.

"I believe it is prudent that we plan for significant reductions . . . because of the difficult fiscal times we are facing," Weast wrote in a memo to schools last week. In making the move, he is anticipating at least some reduction in the education budget.

About 250 teaching positions would be eliminated under Weast's plan, the bulk of them in elementary schools. An additional 110 jobs, including those of staff development teachers and classroom aides, also would be cut. So would an unspecified number of central office jobs.

But it remains unclear whether layoffs would be necessary under the plan. More staff members leave the system on average every year, either through retirement or by finding jobs elsewhere, than the number proposed for elimination, officials said.

"We're going to try to avoid layoffs," said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the Montgomery County schools.

Final decisions on school system programs will wait until after the County Council approves its budget this spring.

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