As if school districts haven’t heard enough bad news lately, Amphitheater Unified School District officials last week revealed the need to possibly eliminate 50 teaching positions.

Officials base the projection on an anticipated decline in state support, which would result from the district’s dropping enrolment figures.

Student enrollment at the district has fallen from 16,680 pupils in 2005-06 to 15,300 this year.

The decline in enrollment means the district would get less money from the state.

Superintendent Vicki Balentine said enrollment ebbs and flows, but the poor economy has contributed to the recent drop in student numbers.

“People are leaving, they are losing their jobs,” Balentine said.

District officials have yet to make any decisions on which teachers would lose their jobs under the current projections.

But the estimated 50 positions would not necessarily equal the number of teachers left looking for work.

Normal rates of attrition would account for some of the positions.

Other teachers could step into jobs temporarily vacated by colleagues who plan to take maternity leave. 

Still more teachers could fill positions of educators who plan to retire at the end of the term.

Some who intended to retire at the end of the school term have chosen to stay on board, Balentine said.

“This year is unprecedented in a number of ways,” Balentine said.

The decrease in enrollment, and its commensurate impact on state funding for the district, compounds the woes of Amphitheater officials already smarting from the Legislature’s recent decision to cut K-12 funding to help close Arizona’s projected budget gap.

Amphitheater anticipates taking a $2.1-million hit to its state support and could lose as much as $15 million next school term, officials estimate.

The district has a total operating budget of roughly $110 million.

The budget cuts would require the district to find ways to trim expenses, like eliminating capital projects, cutting back on educational supplies and slashing maintenance budgets. 

“This year, we won’t hire carpet cleaning people to come in the summer,” Balentine said.

Normally, the district hires companies to steam-clean at the schools.

Not paying for that work this year would save as much as $100,000, according to Balentine.

Amphitheater and other districts across the state might have a slight reprieve from the budget cuts.

When federal lawmakers approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 earlier this year — referred to as the stimulus plan — they included billions of dollars for local school districts.

Details of how much money will go to the states have begun to emerge, with Arizona possibly due as much as $1.4 billion.

Amphitheater officials last week were uncertain of how much federal funding they might get, but have estimated that more than $5.8 million might come in over the next two years.

While the money would help, most of it would cover specific expenses, like special education and the free- and reduced-lunch program, Balentine said.

Gov. Jan Brewer also must decide how to disburse an additional billion dollars of stimulus money for schools.

The stimulus plan sets aside more than $53 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization funds for education nationwide.

Governors would then distribute the money for specified uses, such as to promote education reforms, increase teacher effectiveness, ensure fair distribution of qualified teachers and to help fix lower-performing schools.

Amphitheater officials plan to discuss the fiscal 2010 budget and further explore the possibility of layoffs at the April 14 governing board meeting.


District officials were unsure the exact level of forthcoming federal support. Based on the $1.4-billion federal plan, here’s what Amphitheater officials estimate the district will receive:

• $2.6M for Title 1 (Free and Reduced Lunch Program)

• $3.1M for IDEA Part B (Special education-related)

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