School Cuts Equal Job Loss for South Mississippians

P.E. teacher Lindsay Hunter likes to keep her students trim by helping them exercise. But if the state education budget gets trimmed this year, she may not have a job.

"It's kind of scary to think that if budget cuts do come, more than likely these are the positions that will be cut first is your activity, p.e., music, art, stuff like that," Hunter said.

Superintendent Hank Bounds says he's going to do everything he can not to cut teachers' jobs this year. But keeping teachers in the classroom will mean keeping others out of the administrative offices.

"Worst case scenario, we will could to cut as many as 40 or 50 positions," Bounds said.

With the current education funding plan, the Pascagoula School District will have a deficit of about $3.2 million next year.

This worries teachers like Mary Jane Ball, who knows if school positions get cut, her classroom will grow, and learning won't.

"With 25 [students] right now, it's a struggle just to meet every single child's individual needs," Ball said.

Teachers across the state agree everyone will feel the budget crunch, even if most get to keep their jobs.

"It's going to be difficult whether you get to keep your job or if you don't," Hunter said.

The districts will find out how much the state will be trimming from their budgets by the beginning of May.

About 30 teachers in Hattiesburg, and 10 in the Moss Point School District have been told their contracts won't be renewed next year. In Poplarville, school administrators handed out eight pink slips. And several teachers in Petal have been told they're out of work simply because state lawmakers haven't funded education yet.

We also contacted some other school superintendents around the area, to see how they're handling teacher contracts.

Both Gulfport and the Harrison County school system have already voted to rehire every eligible teacher. And the Long Beach school board will vote on teacher renewals next week.

But in Ocean Springs, the school board won't offer teacher contracts to anybody, until it finds out how much money it's getting from the state.

None of the schools are filling vacant slots until the money issue is resolved.