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CMS Board To Decide on Major Budget Cuts Tonight

CMS board members have some big decisions ahead of them tonight. Superintendent Peter Gorman has asked them to make up their minds on cuts to magnet transportation, weighted student staffing, school start and end times, and the district's pre-kindergarten program called Bright Beginnings. The CMS board is looking for ways to cut $100 million from its budget. Two weeks ago Gorman laid out what he called "the best thinking for those reductions." "I didn't say the best cuts because these cuts are not in the best interest of our students," Gorman told the board. "They are however the best thinking we have given the fiscal constraints we have to operate within." Gorman urged the board to make decisions right away on a few of his proposals. --Cutting in half the district's pre-k program for at-risk 4-year-olds called Bright Beginnings. --Laying off 134 teachers that fall under weighted student staffing. That's the district's major initiative to boost performance at struggling schools by placing more teachers per students at those schools. Right now about 800 teachers fit that bill. --Shifting around school start and end times to save money on transportation. Most students would see a shift of less than half an hour in their day, but some would see up to a 90 minute change. Elementary schools would expand their day by 45 minutes to 7 hours. Gorman did not recommend any changes to magnet school transportation, but board member Rhonda Lennon says she's in favor of cuts. Gorman is asking the board to make up its mind on that tonight, too. Those cuts including magnet transportation could total up to $33 million. The meeting begins at 6 tonight at the Government Center.