School superintendent urges districts not to rush drastic spending cuts

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A coast school superintendent says he's concerned some districts are taking drastic steps to save money before they get all the facts. In January, Mississippi schools lost $77 million in state K-12 funding on top of the $116 million already cut this fiscal year. And word is deeper cuts could be coming next year. However, Ocean Springs Superintendent Dr. Robert Hirsch said it's not time to panic yet.

Ocean Springs teachers have the challenge of making sure state budget cuts don't keep 5,400 children from getting a quality education. Right now, the district is tightening its belt. That means new textbooks, travel and hiring are all on hold.

"Between now and June 30th, we've got to cut $775,000," said Hirsch. "The greater task is next year, which Jackson in predicting about a 10 percent cut. That translates into $4 million that we've got to cut in the budget. When you take 10 coastal school districts, you're talking about half a billion dollars."

Hirsch said last week Mississippi school superintendents came together to brain storm on how to offset state funding losses.

"From those meetings, we got a lot of ideas on where we can save money and we can reduce spending," said Hirsch. "So we will apply a lot of those concepts to our budget reduction."

Hirsch said he's worried some districts are jumping the gun by cutting programs in anticipation of budget cuts for next year.

"I think because this is a crisis, I think people need to slow down a little bit. I'm a little concerned that some school districts are already making cuts. Already taking action."

"We have frozen the budget, but we won't make any final determinations until we get the final numbers," said Hirsch. "When that happens we, Ocean Springs, will have four or five different options laid out. We're studying the problem, but we're not going to leap into the fire until we know what the number are."

Dr. Robert Hirsch said whatever happens in Jackson, he's optimistic Mississippi's schools will be okay.

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