Failed Referendum Leads to Layoffs

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Luke Schaaf is finishing his second year of creating lesson plans for Altoona High School english students. Next year his workload, along with his paycheck will be cut in half.

"I was thinking about buying a house and settling down and all that stuff, to a degree, but now that's changed obviously."

He's one of two Altoona High School teachers who will go from full to part-time in the fall; budget cuts that come from last week's failed referendum. The situation will be even worse for four teachers in the middle and elementary school wings. They'll be laid off next year, just as two more would have been if it hadn't been for retirement.

So Luke will spend his summer looking for a new job, as district leaders plan increases in student fees, and decreases in busing and extra curricular activities.

"We're not really going to know at least for another year how things are gonna look for 06-07," District Administrator Greg Fahrman said.

But they're bracing themselves for nearly a million dollars in cuts.

"I think that's a direct result of the tension we're seeing throughout the state between local property tax and insuring quality education in our schools," said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

She thinks the answer is in re-forming a budget that would fund two-thirds of public school costs, a formula she said has the potential to ease the burden of high property taxes.

"Public education is a good buy, and we should be funding it without creating a disturbance in the community," Fahrman said.

While Luke is dissapointed, he realizes they're cutting positions, not people, so he's not bitter about his predicament.

"I guess i'd like to be optimistic about it and i'd like to think education is important and should be funded."

Though the question of how it should be funded is the subject of an increasingly bitter debate statewide.