Another School District Deep in Debt—More People Fired

Oakland and West Contra Costa school districts are in the process of firing lots of teachers.  Now we find another bankrupt district is cutting $23 million and cutting 51 full time jobs.

“The board also vowed to hire a third party auditor to study the numbers again in an effort to prevent some of the layoffs. The positions on the chopping block include parent and community involvement specialists, service technicians and custodians. Educators will not be cut.

“If we can find a way to not do layoffs this year I will grab it,” said District Board Member J. Manuel Herrera at Thursday’s meeting “I am committed to finding a way out of this folks because if you don’t, it is hard on everybody, including the board.”

The budget cuts and layoffs are prompted by a severe shortfall in revenue — about $12.5 million in the current fiscal year — which administrators say is prompted by a lack of state funding and increased costs for things like pension and health benefits.

The mentioned reason for the cuts:  the massive increase in the cost of CalSTRS, the teachers’ pension fund, is the real culprit.  Until that is reformed, no amount of State aid will be sufficient.  No amount of bonds and parcel taxes will finance quality education—because that is not the goal of government education.

East San Jose school district OKs $23 million budget cut, staff layoffs

by Carina Woudenberg, San Jose Spotlight,  2/17/20    

Citing a severe lack of funding, the East Side Union High School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously in a meeting last week to cut $23 million from its budget and eliminate 51 full-time positions across the district’s 16 schools.

The board also vowed to hire a third party auditor to study the numbers again in an effort to prevent some of the layoffs. The positions on the chopping block include parent and community involvement specialists, service technicians and custodians. Educators will not be cut.

“If we can find a way to not do layoffs this year I will grab it,” said District Board Member J. Manuel Herrera at Thursday’s meeting “I am committed to finding a way out of this folks because if you don’t, it is hard on everybody, including the board.”

The budget cuts and layoffs are prompted by a severe shortfall in revenue — about $12.5 million in the current fiscal year — which administrators say is prompted by a lack of state funding and increased costs for things like pension and health benefits.

Herrera’s remarks followed roughly an hour and a half of budget presentations from district administrators followed by another hour and a half of public comment. Students, teachers, parents and school employees filled the district’s board room while an overflow crowd watched a live stream of the meeting from a separate conference room and in the building’s lobby.

The audience — many of them students — pleaded with the board to stop the cuts which would eliminate 11 custodians, 12 support services technicians and eight parent and community involvement specialists, among other positions.

“The budget layoffs will cost students critical resources that are key for preparation for college and their careers,” said Christina Vo, a junior at Silver Creek High School. “School is supposed to be a space where students come to learn, to grow, to develop. By unfairly taking away these assets you are yet again divesting in our futures.”

The budget cuts would be made in advance of the 2021-22 school year and the layoffs would be issued in June, officials said.

The board heard two presentations that evening — one by the East Side Teachers Association which argued that some of the district’s projected expenses are likely higher than necessary. It also notes that enrollment is up this year by more than 200 students.

In its response, the district argues that ESTA’s proposal would merely push back the need for greater cuts in the future — totaling $33 million in the 2021-22 academic year.

Under pressure to meet a March 15 deadline for beginning the layoff process, the five-member board unanimously approved the cuts, despite each member voicing a reluctance to do so.

“It’s so hard for me to sit here and make a decision to cut these positions,” said Board Member Van Le. “Can we all sit down (and decide) everyone sacrifices a little bit?”

Board Member Pattie Cortese said it’s not possible to avoid layoffs altogether, but supported poring over the numbers again to determine what else could be done to save money.

“Is there a place to squeeze any dollars out of there?” she said. “For example, substitute teachers. Can we get by with less?”

The board will meet again on March 5 to continue the discussion. Herrera says he hopes by then the board will have found a way to significantly reduce the layoffs or push them back to future years.

“There is a way around these cuts but they must be negotiated,” said District Superintendent Chris Funk in an email to San José Spotlight. “We have until June to find savings.”

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. These stories always seem to appear just prior to a vote on bonds to increase funding for the schools. How about the schools spend some time going after the monies from the Lottery we all voted for.

  2. Otis Needleman says

    Funny, I made it through high school without any “parent and community involvement specialists”. I just went to school, did the schoolwork, and behaved. Graduated on time. Not rocket science. Why do these “students” need so much “support”? Not the way things work in the real world.

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