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Cutting teachers, closing schools not enough to close budget hole

READING, Pa. - Nearly 200 teacher positions are in danger of being eliminated in Reading. It's the latest budget cut plan the school district will consider to fill a massive hole in next year's budget.

The district has crunched the numbers and has looked for every possible way to close the more than $40 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year. The school board discussed the latest proposed plan Wednesday night.

"We don't want anyone to lose their jobs, not one, but given the crisis we're in we have to make drastic cuts," said Robert Heebner, vice president of the school board.

It's a crisis that may have 170 teachers out of the classroom and out of a job. The cuts could save the district $11 million, board members said.

"That means that our students are going to have 170 less opportunities to try and find success," said Bryan Sanguinito, the president of the Reading Education Association.

With Reading being the poorest city in the nation, Sanguinito said education is crucial, and the proposed move will cripple the students chances to succeed.

"Our students deserve better than all the things that are happening right now, and we're trying to work on that with the district," said Sanguinito.

Cutting the teaching positions is part of a package plan that includes furloughs, closing the district's 6th grade magnet schools, closing Thomas Ford Elementary and eliminating pre-kindergarten. The package could bring the overall deficit down to about $17.4 million, but that still means more cuts are expected.

"The cuts that are going to have to come now are going to have to be very creative, and it's going to hurt," said Heebner.

The school board has scheduled a vote for next Wednesday to submit the cuts to the Department of Education in Harrisburg. A permanent budget must be passed by June 30.

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