Thursday, March 18, 2004

Frailey looks at costs and returns

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ROSELAWN - Cincinnati's school superintendent wants to examine why some schools say they can't provide adequate services to their students when the district is spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

"I'm just wondering how do we spend what we spend and not have what we need," he said during a community forum Wednesday at the Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies in Roselawn.

Frailey addressed concerns about why $150,000 that was expected to be allocated for training school decision-making councils was struck from this year's $436 million budget.

He told the group that the decision was a way to cut costs, and added that he instead designated one of his assistant superintendents to coordinate the training.

Frailey said that the district, which has been steadily losing students for decades, likely will have to cut more from the budget.

He told the group he wants to examine why the 38,800-student Cincinnati Public Schools' general fund budget is $436 million while his former suburban Houston school district, with 32,000 students, had a budget of under $250 million.

Frailey said he reduced the current budget by $700,000 from last year's and wants to continue considering ways to make the district more efficient while improving student achievement. He said he's convinced the district will have to reduce the general fund budget to less than $400 million.

He also answered questions from parents who said their schools' budgets are restricting them from offering adequate services, like music and art classes.

Some parents said Fairview German Language School in Clifton Heights is considering cutting physical education because the school can't afford physical education and smaller class sizes in grades K-3, which is a district requirement.

"We shouldn't be forced to make a choice between what's good for children and curriculum," said Jill Huppert, a physician and parent of two children at Fairview. "Please don't make me choose between (physical education) and class size."

Other schools, especially smaller ones, are having similar budget problems, Frailey said. That's partly because the district uses student-based budgeting where schools receive a certain amount for each student.

Smaller schools are now saying they have trouble operating because their student population doesn't generate enough revenue.

Frailey said the board has approved a budget task force.


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