Coronavirus News: Long Island school workers laid off due to anticipated state aid cuts

LAWRENCE, Nassau County (WABC) -- More than 100 workers in the Lawrence School District have been laid off or furloughed due to anticipated cuts in state aid in a move which may become common throughout school districts in New York State as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

One hundred eight workers in the school district have been laid off or furloughed - the vast majority of them laid off.

"We're devastated," Jennie Guberman said. "It's such a terrible, terrible time."

Guberman has worked as a teacher's aide in the school district for 23 years. She went on unemployment when the schools closed in mid-March.

In a letter dated April 8, Guberman and the other workers were informed by Lawrence School District Superintendent Ann Pedersen: "Based on the adverse economic impact and curtailment of activities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, I regret to inform you that during a special meeting held April 6, 2020, the Board of Education authorized and directed the layoff of all positions within your department, effective April 15, 2020."

In the letter, Pedersen informed the workers their dental and medical insurance would expire at the end of April.

Pedersen thanked workers for their "continued professionalism and patience during these difficult circumstances."

"If you wanted to lay us off do it the right way, wait until the end of the school year and then make a fiscal decision. Not during a pandemic," Guberman said.
School districts across New York State are finding out now they are not receiving the state aid they accounted for in their budgets.

"The state can't possibly give us money they don't have," said David Bennardo, superintendent of the South Huntington School District.

Bennardo said the district found out about two weeks ago it would not be receiving approximately $900,000 in state aid.

He said district officials were able to find $900,000 in savings generated by the schools being closed.

"That made us even so there didn't have to be any cuts," he said.
Bennardo said he worries if the federal government doesn't back-fill the state treasuries that could mean a 20% cut in state aid to school districts.

"In our case, that's a $7.4 million cut to our budget and that, that would be tremendous," he said.

Bennardo said he doesn't want the public to panic and he is hopeful the federal government will provide funding to the states, which will be passed along to the school districts. In the meantime, he is asking his budgetary staff to continue to look at cost savings.

"I want to keep pushing everybody to find those creative solutions," he said.


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