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State survey measures impact of school cuts

Budget woes are forcing school districts throughout Pennsylvania to increase class size, eliminate tutoring programs, slash summer school, cut full day kindergarten programs and shed staff, spokesmen for business officials and school administrators said Thursday.

"The impact of the budget cuts is severe and will deeply impact the options for students throughout the state," said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the state association of school administrators. "There will be fewer programs, fewer teachers and larger class sizes. It's the wrong answer for Pennsylvania's students."

The state survey last month drew responses from just over half of the state's 500 school districts. It showed that 71 percent expect to cut instructional programs in the 2011-12 school year. Class sizes are expected to increase in 86 percent of districts in 2011-12 due to cuts in instructional staff. Elective courses will be cut in 71 percent of the responding districts, 64 percent will eliminate or reduce tutoring and 51 percent plan to drop summer school.

Also, 31 percent of districts plan on cutting full-day kindergarten, most of them reducing it to half-day.

The percentage of districts making the cuts is much higher in each case than the percentage that made them this school year, Buckheit said.

More than 90 percent of districts plan to eliminate jobs by not filling vacant positions; two-thirds intend to lay off instructional staff, and 70 percent will target noninstructional personnel. All the estimated cuts are taking place in a higher percentage of schools than last year, the survey said. For example, year, 17 percent of districts increased class size this year, while about five times that number plan on doing it next year.

An Inquirer survey of area districts showed similar results, with about nine in 10 responding districts saying they plan to eliminate jobs, while all but a handful call for tax increases, some by several times the state-set rate of education inflation.