DETROIT (AP) — The city’s struggling public school district is considering cutting up to 4,000 jobs and closing 25 to 40 schools to help eliminate a $198 million budget deficit caused in part by declining enrollment, officials announced yesterday.

Details of a deficit-reduction plan are expected to be announced over the next few weeks, Kenneth Burnley, chief executive for the Detroit Public Schools, said in a written statement. And the district expects to submit a plan to the state within the next 90 days to eliminate the deficit by June 30, 2006.

The deficit for the year ending June 30, 2005, includes a $150 million shortfall this fiscal year and a $48.7 million deficit from the 2003-04 fiscal year. The deficit remains despite $76 million in earlier cuts.

In addition to job cuts and school closings, the district said the deficit-reduction plan is expected to include: working with the state Legislature to allow the district to issue deficit-reduction bonds payable over the next 15 years; asking the state Legislature to maintain $15 million in supplemental funding; bargaining with labor unions on wages and benefits; and seeking to eliminate the deficit over a five-year period instead of two years.

Last week, Detroit Public Schools announced it lost 9,307 students since fall 2003 and warned that school closings and job cuts were likely. This year’s student count was at 140,716, down from 150,023 last fall.

As a result of the drop in enrollment, the district was expected to get $66.8 million less from the state than last fall — more than the $42 million it had budgeted to lose from projected enrollment drops.

School officials attribute the drop to charter and private schools, the city’s population decline and lower birth rates. They also blame the deficit on state aid remaining flat or declining in recent years.

Janna Garrison, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the union representing the city’s public school teachers, said employees have been working with the district to find ways to address budget problems.

Although she noted that proposals such as closing schools are unpopular, she said there are some facilities that clearly are underutilized. And she said she hopes union members will remain involved in the budget-reduction process.

“We believe that the district must focus on the classroom. It’s just that simple,” Garrison said. “They must focus on the classroom and halt the students who are leaving.”

The cuts announced yesterday come on top of at least 2,100 jobs the system has cut since spring, nearly 10 percent of the district’s work force.

 

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