Proposed Gilbert school cuts target special education

by Emily Gersema – Apr. 10, 2010

The Arizona Republic

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board has agreed informally to some budget cuts recommended by the administration, including more than $1.7 million in cuts and changes in special-education programs, staffing and staff hours.

District administrators at a work/study session this week revealed more details about the impact of what they called “program adjustments” that the board is considering.

Some of the proposals could be taken off the table if voters on May 18 approve a temporary, statewide one-cent salestax increase.

The increase would affect the amount of state funds the district would receive per student for instruction and spending on soft capital items such as textbooks and buses.

However, some of Gilbert’s cuts may be implemented regardless of the vote outcome because of a looming deficit of at least $4 million. Those proposed cuts include program changes and cutbacks to special education.

The district wants to:

•  Adopt a different educational approach for high school special-education students, which would ensure they spend most of their day in classes with general-education peers. Savings: $562,700.

•  Create a daylong special-education program at Gilbert Junior High for 24 students that the district has been sending to private schools for special-education services. Savings: $191,214.

•  Cut back on resource aides’ hours at the junior highs. Savings: $163,750.

•  Reduce elementary special-education aides’ hours. Savings: $574,027.

•  Eliminate one licensed practical nurse position and reduce instructional aides’ hours for programs such as one that SCILLS, which helps special-education students learn some adult life skills, and the Youth Transition Program. Savings: $196,780.

The board has yet to vote on the proposed cuts. It is expected to approve a tentative plan by the end of the month so the district can notify teachers about potential layoffs before the GPS notification deadline of May 1.

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