Are things as bad as they sound?
After three months of deadlock, the state legislature and the governor finally landed the plane and agreed to a budget. You might ask, “So what?”
Until now – and based on requirements and a process handed down by the state – our school district has been attempting to determine next year’s budget without knowing what level of funding the state will provide next year. Does that create a sort of “Alice in Wonderland” theme for the very serious process of crafting the district’s $60+ million budget? Yes, it does.
With a budget finally passed at the state level, the district can craft a budget using real numbers from the state. And the initial news isn’t good. While the details of the new state budget are still being reviewed, it appears Santa Cruz City Schools is staring at a gap of approximately $4 million for next year.
Determining how to bridge that gap is a heavy task that falls primarily on the school board, district administration, the teachers union and the classified union—with input needed from parents and the community. So far, two paths have emerged regarding how to get to $4 million in savings:
Path #1: Increased class sizes, Layoffs, Program Cuts and Cuts and Cuts
In this scenario, class sizes will increase, many hard-working and valued employees will lose their jobs, and academic excellence will surely be impacted. The following cuts and impacts are proposed:
Grades K-5: Teachers in areas such as Art, Math Resources, Music, Physical Education, Spanish and Library Media
Grades 6-8: Programs and courses such as AVID, Choral Music, Counseling, English, Instrumental Music, Leadership Class, Life Science, Math, Physical Education, Theater Arts and Woodshop
Grades 9-12: Programs and courses such as Art, Athletics, AVID, Counselors, ELD Tutorials, English, Health, Journalism, Leadership Class, Life Science, Math, Physical Education, Physical Science, Social Studies, Theater Arts, Work Experience and World Languages
In addition, this scenario would include layoffs and cutbacks for wide variety of essential staff positions and operational needs, such as: Art Coordinators, Bilingual School Community Coordinators, Clerical Assistants, Health Clerks, Custodians, Instructional Supplies, Instructional Aides, Library Media Aides, Life Lab, Custodial Supplies and Copier Contracts.
Path #2: Shared Sacrifice and Some Cuts
In this scenario, employees in the district would follow a furlough program, what district officials refer to as a “reduced work calendar.” The idea is that employees would take a small number of days off, unpaid – the number of days being discussed is in the 1-4 range, and would not include instructional (classroom) days. Top district officials, known as the “cabinet,” have publicly offered to take furlough days if others will do the same. In terms of compensation, the furlough concept is equivalent to a one-time pay cut of approximately 2%, and would not impact retirement packages.
In order for the furlough idea to work, such a sacrifice would likely have to be shared across all of the district’s employee groups: administrators, teachers and classified workers. Those parties are currently negotiating various options for addressing the budget shortfall.
From President Obama to our state legislature to our school district, there is wide agreement that we’re experiencing the worst economic crisis in a couple generations. Policymakers are searching for new ways to solve the crisis, since many of the old ways are no longer working. The concepts of shared sacrifice and furloughs are gaining favor in California and across the country because they help preserve both vital programs and jobs—unlike past budget crises, those who get laid off will probably remain unemployed for an extended period of time.
If you think our schools are worth fighting for; if you support Path #1 or Path #2 or have another idea; if you want to support our district, union and elected leaders in our district during this difficult process; now is the time to jump in.
Here are two key upcoming meetings:
February 24, 4:00 p.m. at the District Office – Budget Finance Advisory Committee (made up of community members, administrators, union representatives and school board members)
February 25, 6:30 p.m. at Westlake Elementary – School Board meeting
Also, see below to contact the Superintendent’s office, union representatives and school board members.
The school board is required by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education to submit a balanced budget plan by March 15th.
Contact District Leaders
Alan Pagano, Superintendent
Tanya Krause, Deputy Superintendent
Barry Kirschen, Teacher’s Union President
Joan Lowe, Classified Union President