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Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Elaborates On Layoffs, Budget Cuts

Man speaks at podium with man and woman standing behind him with masks
Hillsborough County Public Schools Facebook page
Hillsborough County Public Schools Supt. Addison Davis, seen speaking in Oct. 2020, talked to reporters Wednesday about layoffs and budget cuts the district faces before next school year.

Superintendent Addison Davis talked about what the district will have to do to address a $100 million deficit — and that includes layoffs.

Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis has led the country’s eighth largest school district for about 13 months — basically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said close to 2,000 job cuts have been made during that time — but more layoffs still have to come.

“It's been very difficult,” said Davis. “But once we get through this initial phase of cuts, and this final phase of cuts, we’ll have laid a foundation that allows us to be fiscally responsible.”

Because of a $100 million deficit, the district is planning on cutting over 1,000 jobs before the start of the next school year in August — a move he said would result in close to $80 million in savings.

Davis told reporters Wednesday those cuts will not include support staff such as food service, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals that assist bilingual and ESL learners.

“As a matter of fact, while we have a hiring freeze, those positions will continue to be recruited for because they are so essential to our school district,” Davis said.

He added that they’re taking other steps as well, including possibly selling unused school properties.

“We've cut travel, we've cut overtime cost, we're going to actually have to furlough administrators, including myself and the cabinet, and potentially principals for four days in the summer, all to be able to make sure this is a cohesive effort to get to that threshold,” he said.

The problem, Davis said, is that Hillsborough County Public Schools has been losing a few thousand students a year to charter, private, and home schools.

That has led to vacancies of at least 30% in 60 schools districtwide.

“As you lose students, you lose money. When you're losing money, you’re losing resources, you’re losing personnel,” said Davis. “The problem is, historically, we (have) lost close to 3,000 students annually, and we never made the adjustments to personnel.”

The superintendent said that the district is working on ways to recruit students and parents back into the system.

“We just got to have a marketing plan,” said Davis. “It's a must, and if we don't, we will continue to lose students.”

He also said that there are talks about raising taxes to help fund schools, but that they are hoping to get more funds from lawmakers in Tallahassee before they consider that.

“There's an option of circling back and asking the community to help us fund art, music, and P.E. in every one of our schools, and that could be through a potential millage,” Davis added.

He’s also been encouraging parents to press state legislators for more funding, while highlighting Florida’s lack of public education spending.

“When the state of Florida is ranked 43rd in the nation related to funding public education (per student), that's a concern,” Davis said.

I am a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News Intern for the spring 2022 semester; this is my second internship with the station.
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