Some teachers are also upset that a uniform seven-period schedule is being implemented across all Broward high schools. The change, designed to help Broward comply with class-size requirements, will ensure that all high school teachers teach at least six classes (some previously taught only five).
The Broward Teachers Union has filed a grievance in response to the scheduling change, with union administrator John Tarka calling it an uncompensated increase in teachers’ workload.
Though Runcie has focused on maximizing his existing employees, this year’s budget is not without layoffs: More than 200 non-instructional employee jobs are being eliminated, ranging from administrative to clerical to custodial positions.
The layoffs are evidence that the district’s financial position, while surely improved from last year, is still somewhat shaky. A recurring trend of lean state budgets has left Broward unable to fund about $1.8 billion worth of projects in its five-year capital plan. That money pays not just for school building improvements but also classroom technology and school buses. Broward’s school buses are, on average, more than 10 years old, and close to 70 percent of the district’s computers have either outlived their warranty or are close to it.
As state funding for public schools has dried up, the Legislature has also encouraged the opening of charter schools. Charter schools are projected to serve nearly 35,000 Broward students in the upcoming school year — a 4,900-student increase from the year before. Each additional student that Broward loses to competing charters amounts to less state funding for the district, which further strains its thin finances.
Broward school leaders are hopeful that improving the district’s reputation, along with offering an increasing array of innovative and specialty programs, will halt the exodus of students. A new military academy with open this fall at Hollywood Hills High School, for example, and the district is considering starting its own charter school, one that would focus on technology and vocational-type careers.
“The way you stop the flight is you’ve got to keep performing,” Runcie said. “We just need to constantly improve the schools that we have, that’s the best strategy that you can do to make the district viable.”