Districts Brace For State Budget Cuts

As school districts throughout California prepare for massive layoffs and program cuts due to the state’s worsening budget crisis, the Long Beach Unified School District is implementing significant belt-tightening efforts of its own. The aim in Long Beach is to protect employees as much as possible from the large-scale layoffs that many other districts are planning to approve next month. At the same time, every effort is being made to continue the steady and significant academic gains that local schools have seen in recent years. Achieving these goals will require sacrifice. “As we announced last month, we are suspending all expenditures unless they are deemed absolutely essential,” said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools. “We must avoid issuing massive numbers of those demoralizing March layoff notices. To do so, each of us must take the state budget crisis seriously and do our part to save our limited resources.” An ominous list of cuts is being discussed in other California school districts, where leaders describe the proposed state budget as devastating. San Diego schools are preparing for up to $80 million in cuts that will likely lead to the elimination of jobs and programs. Proposals include reducing busing and transportation for sports teams, cutting custodial hours, reducing the number of counselors and literacy coaches, eliminating full-day kindergarten and elementary music, laying off teachers and increasing class sizes. Oceanside schools already laid off 15 temporary teachers and were planning further cuts. In Santa Ana, $28 million in possible cuts have been proposed. Some employees will receive a pay reduction. Some positions have already been eliminated or reassigned. A minimum of 125 part-time positions will be eliminated beginning July 1. San Francisco schools face a $40 million shortfall and are facing massive layoffs and program cuts. Fresno schools are planning for $27 million in cuts. Rialto schools planned to inform 400 of the district’s 1,450 teachers and counselors that they may not be employed next year. Orange County parents, teachers and educators rallied this month against proposed cuts that would take $500 million from the county’s schools, forcing them to increase class sizes, cut music and the arts, eliminate after-school programs and lay off teachers. Lake Elsinore schools announced an impasse this month with the California School Employees Association after negotiations came to a standstill. School district officials said they could not offer ongoing wage increases because they don’t know what resources they will receive during the next two years. School districts won’t know the full impact of the state’s budget crisis until California legislators approve a budget later this year.