SUMMERVILLE -- Nearly 400 people packed a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed 2010-11 Dochester District 2 budget that cuts another $8 million and 130 jobs, including teachers and assistant principals.
"We obviously need more money. What do we need to do to get more money? We want to know what we can do to help our schools. What do we do to make education (priority) number one?" said parent Sharon Steinke to cheers and applause.
In a meeting that at times resembled a rally, she and other parents joined district leaders in calling for the audience to lobby County Council and legislators.
District leaders promised to post contact information for legislators on the district website.
To nods in the audience, parent Diane Lodge encouraged people to attend a meeting on Monday where the budget will be presented to County Council for approval. About two-thirds of the district's funding comes from the state, and one-third comes from the county.
The proposed $126 million budget is 5 percent smaller than the current one. It drops 130 people, including 15 teachers, 14 guidance counselors and nine assistant principals, mostly through attrition, from a 3,000-per-son staff.
It slices the operating budget nearly across the board, including a $20-per-pupil cut in spending. The school board decided not to privatize custodial work and other support services, relying instead on roving teams of workers to move school-to-school for what board members called a trial year.
School leaders hope that move will save the $1 million that would have been saved by contracting for those services.
Like other school districts caught in the squeeze of decreases in both state and local tax revenue because of tax cuts and the recession, Dorchester 2 is shearing away support services, property and supplies while administrators struggle to hold together core education. The district has lost $17 million in revenue in the past two budget years, said Allyson Duke, chief financial officer.
Meanwhile, the district's record 23,000-student enrollment continues to grow, with 350 more students expected next year.
"The funding formula for South Carolina does not work. It's punishing us," Duke told the audience. "While we think next year is going to be bad, the next year is going to be much worse."