Dozens of Hammond teachers could face layoffs

2012-05-25T18:30:00Z 2012-06-11T20:17:23Z Dozens of Hammond teachers could face layoffsBy Carmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

HAMMOND | The School City of Hammond could lay off as many as 60 teachers.

Hammond Superintendent Walter Watkins and Hammond teachers union President Patrick O'Rourke said Friday the district is looking at a $5.8 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year as a result of the school funding formula and declining enrollment.

The School Board is scheduled to meet Tuesday. Reduction-in-force letters are expected to be mailed to teachers Wednesday, but the exact number is not known. A teacher who receives such a letter does not mean the teacher will be laid off. The letters are a formality to put teachers on notice they may be laid off.

Watkins said the numbers are being revised daily.

"We're trying to make these cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. We came up with some preliminary numbers. Nothing is definite yet. We won't know anything for sure until Tuesday," he said.

O'Rourke said the declining enrollment is because of charter schools and vouchers. He said the district lost about 119 students to the voucher program. He did not have an estimate regarding how many students may have transferred to charter schools.

This was the first school year for Indiana’s new voucher program, which allows families to send their children to a school of their choice. A voucher, or Choice Scholarship, is a state payment that qualifying families can use to offset tuition costs at participating private schools. Students qualify based on total household income, and the amount of the scholarship corresponds with the public school corporation in which the student lives. 

O'Rourke said if Hammond's per-pupil cost is about $8,000 per student — multiplied by 119 students — the district lost thousands of dollars as a result of the program.

"We have to bring our expenditures and income into compliance, particularly in the general fund," he said.

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