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Reading's preliminary budget cuts 170 teachers, closes 5 schools

Reading approves prelim budget, cuts 170 teachers

READING, Pa. - The Reading School Board has signed off on a preliminary spending plan that eliminates several programs and nearly 15% of the teaching staff.

The vote Wednesday night came after lots of emotional feedback from parents who are against the massive cuts.

The decisions the board has had to make have been the hardest ever, said member Karen McCree.

"If any of you walk out of here today and think that we're okay with this, then something's wrong with every last one of you," said McCree.

It was a packed house at the meeting as members signed off on a preliminary budget that is loaded with job cuts. Parents, teachers and staff were standing for more than two hours just to hear what the potential cuts involved.

As it stands, the proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year is nearly $220 million, cutting 364 jobs, including 170 teaching positions. That amounts to 14% of the district's teaching staff.

Teachers like Nancy Swope said the cuts will hurt.

"My blood, my sweat and my tears have been given to the children of the Reading School District," said Swope. "I want you to see a face to the person you are about to furlough."

The proposed budget also closes Thomas Ford Elementary School and the district's four magnet schools for 6th graders.

Other programs that could be cut off are all-day kindergarten, as well as music, art and home economics classes. Also, 19 security officer jobs would be no more.

"We have taken guns from school. Do we get any recognition? No. We have taken drugs from the school," said Nelson Otero, a security officer at Reading High School.

The future jobs and programs at stake, school board officials said, are difficult to swallow. McCree stressed that what they ultimately decided upon is the best option they are being dealt.

"Instead of us fighting and scrabbling with each other, we need to be somewhere changing the problem as it exists in the state of Pennsylvania," said McCree.

The budget will sit for 30 days before it is officially voted upon on June 30.

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