Camden schools plan to lay off 400 staff

CAMDEN, N.J. - April 3, 2014

Hundreds of job cuts and layoffs are coming to the Camden School District as the state controlled system for nearly 12,000 students goes through drastic budget cuts.

Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard introduced a budget plan Wednesday calling for 575 jobs to be eliminated, including 400 layoffs before school starts in September.

He says declining federal funding and overspending have led to a projected $75 million deficit. The state government, which pays for most of the city's school expenses, is calling for a flat subsidy for the coming school year.

The top management claims 20% of the workforce must go to make ends meet. The projected deficit is nearly a million dollars.

Under the plan, at least 300 teachers will be let go. Under union rules, the newest teachers must be at the top of the list on the chopping block.

"We are currently not projecting any tenured teacher to be impacted, but that is still subject to some refinement in our number," said Paymon Rouhanifard, Camden School Superintendent.

The union that represents teachers and office staff says in the beginning, 900 people were going be let go outright, but through attrition, work rule changes and other cost cutting measures, they have it down to 400.

"It makes it hard to fight when you don't have enough pupils in the classroom to justify enrollment, and that's where we are hurting right now," said Robert Farmer, Acting Union President.

"I think it is ridiculous due to the fact that we need teacher, teachers are very important. They play a very important role in our children's lives," said Anna Gonzalez.

Charter schools and school-choice programs have been expanding in a city that is among the most impoverished in the nation and enrollment has dropped by 1,000 students in the last five years.

Per-pupil spending in Camden this year is more than $27,000 - the second-highest in New Jersey.

The school superintendent says he will continue to meet with parents groups and the union as he works to finalize the spending plan sometime in May.

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