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Bad news delivered: Schools face cuts

State budget proposals indicate sacrifices will have to be made. Also, the School Board initially supports dress code changes, which will go to a final vote next month.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 23, 2003

LAND O'LAKES -- State budget restraints have left the Pasco County School District facing two unsavory choices: chop programs for students or freeze teachers' salaries.

This was superintendent John Long's assessment of the latest budget proposals from Tallahassee, the worst of which, from the state House of Representatives, leaves Pasco schools with a $16-million shortfall.

The state Senate's version leaves school spending intact, but he doesn't expect senators to prevail, Long told the School Board at a Tuesday night meeting in Land O'Lakes.

"We're going to have to make some very tough decisions," Long said.

The decision is between requiring teachers to work harder for less money or cutting services for students. It's still undecided which programs would lose out.

The district already has cut administration "to the bone," Long said, so don't look there for much budgetary relief.

Next year, the district needs an extra $3.9-million for teacher incentive pay, $3.7-million for benefits and $4-million for fuel and utilities. The House's budget covers none of those increases, Long said.

The Legislature is scheduled to approve a budget and close out its session next month. Long's announcement Tuesday was intended to brace the School Board for bad news.

In other business Tuesday night, the School Board unanimously supported changes to the dress code for middle and high school students.

The rules re-emphasize the district's ban on sexually explicit and implicit clothing. Forbidden are bare midriffs, exposed underwear, tank tops, muscle shirts and miniskirts.

Hats, previously disallowed only within school buildings, also are banned outdoors on campuses. But the board tweaked the language Tuesday by emphasizing the hat ban applies only during school hours.

A second and final hearing on the dress code is scheduled for a board meeting next month.

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