Some area school districts save money by not replacing teachers who retire.
Since 2003, nearly 400 teaching positions have been eliminated by school districts in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, according to a study by the Ohio Education Association.
Trumbull County lost 217 teachers, Mahoning County lost 105 and Columbiana County, 68 teachers, OEA spokeswoman Michele Prater said.
Overall, Ohio has lost 8.42 percent of its K-12 teaching work force in the past two years, according to the study.
Using data from the Ohio Department of Education, the OEA determined that districts cut 9,662 teachers in that time period. Because some positions were retained for the future, a smaller total of 8,600 teaching positions were cut statewide, Prater said.
Layoffs caused a majority of the state's reductions, but some were reduced by attrition, she said.
Although district data were not available and many school superintendents could not be reached for comments because of summer scheduling, officials from at least 10 of the three counties' 45 districts said their districts have used attrition to decrease staff size within the past three years. Some reported additional cuts through layoffs.
While the OEA report cited inadequate state funding as the main cause for the cuts, local superintendents also offered other reasons for the staff reductions.
Superintendent Rocco Nero of Lowellville said, "Whenever you can reduce through attrition, it's a good thing if you can do it -- without hurting education -- because eventually the budget is going to catch up with you."
Springfield Superintendent Debra Mettee said her district has decreased staff by six people within the past three years, four of them through attrition, because enrollment has significantly decreased.
In addition to decreased enrollment and budget cuts at all levels, Salem Superintendent Howard Friend said the unresponsiveness of school budgets to increased operating costs plays a role in forcing decreases in staff size.
Austintown Superintendent Doug Heuer said budget issues forced his district to cut 10 positions by attrition and eliminate an additional 18 full- or part-time support staff members in the 2005-06 school year.
Such budget and enrollment issues are leading some local schools to predict more staffing cuts in the future.
Because his school has calculated a budget deficit for three years down the road, United Local Superintendent Tom Davis said his district will use attrition to make cuts during the next three years.
And Superintendent David Bair of Joseph Badger schools said teacher cuts might occur in his district as its four schools combine into one building for the 2006-07 school year.
Bair said budget issues have forced the district to cut eight positions through attrition during the past three years.