Marion County school layoffs will cut music, art, PE classes



MARION COUNTY, Fla. - The Marion County Schools' budget is so dire, the district is laying off 261 of its employees, 160 of whom are first-year teachers.

The largest layoffs in memory come after two referendums to increase the millage rate failed in Marion County in November.

Starting next year, many classes will have more kids than Florida law allows.

Channel 9's Lori Brown asked Superintendent Geoge Tornyn how the cuts will impact children's educations.

The superintendent said that is the only option.

Art, music and physical education classes will be taught by half the number of people when kids go back to school next year in Marion County.

"They bunch them up in one little classroom, and teachers can't give them the time they need," said parent Karolyn Mobley.

"Are these cuts going to affect the classroom? How could they not affect the classroom? I'm bolstered by the fact that we have a great workforce still remaining," said Tornyn.

Tomyn was elected superintendent last November.

He said several years of budget shortfalls made the huge cuts necessary.

This year, the district used $10 million from its savings.

The district has so little left in reserves that the law prevents it from dipping into its savings anymore.

"It's tough, it's tough. It's no fun at all. I have friends impacted, children of friends impacted," Tomyn said.

WFTV called the Marion County Teacher's Union and learned it was blindsided by the cuts.

The union blames the school board for failing to campaign for the two ballot referendums to raise the millage rate.

Voters rejected both tax increases in November.

Parents are worried about how the cuts will impact their children.

The superintendent is also proposing to cut summer school next year for middle and high school students.

He said students can retake classes through Florida Virtual School.

The school board will meet Thursday to discuss the budget.

If more budget cuts are needed, the superintendent said he will consider districtwide furloughs and pay reductions.

A community group outraged by the layoffs is planning to protest Wednesday in downtown Ocala at 4 p.m.