Contact: Mike Myslinski, CTA; 408-921-5769 (cell); firstname.lastname@example.org
UNION CITY – Bay Area public schools are at a darkening crossroads after years of devastating cuts and pink slips and can’t survive without adequate funding, while the governor’s proposed budget could make matters worse, local Education Coalition members warned today at a news conference in one decimated school district in Alameda County.
California schools and community colleges have been hit by more than $20 billion in funding cuts and deferrals the past four years. Facing an estimated budget shortfall of $10.7 million next fiscal year, the New Haven Unified School District issued precautionary layoff notices to more than 100 teachers, classified employees and administrators earlier this month and is facing closing libraries and cutting art and music classes. Since 2008, the district has already reduced its classified staff by 13 percent, the teaching staff by 14 percent and the administrative staff by 23 percent. Dozens of Bay Area districts have issued hundreds and hundreds of teacher pink slips as the annual March 15 deadline looms, and thousands more are going out across the state.
“We must find significant new revenues to return our economy and school system to the top rankings they once enjoyed,” said New Haven Unified Superintendent Kari McVeigh. “New Haven has already made $15 million in cuts over the past four years. Making nearly $11 million more in reductions will be devastating for our students and community.”
Finding new revenues is critical. The state ranks 47th in per-pupil funding, and at the bottom in the ratios of students per principal (46th), per teacher (47th), per counselor (49th), and per school librarian (50th). Class sizes are soaring.
Laying off thousands of teachers in the Bay Area and statewide will hurt a generation of students, said Terri Jackson, a member of the California Teachers Association’s Board of Directors and a teacher in West Contra Costa Unified, which issued more than 53 pink slips for educators. “Every teacher we lay off breaks a bond with students and parents. We have the ninth-largest economy in the world. We must protect what staff and resources we have left and invest more in our neighborhood schools, or we jeopardize the future of our state.”
Districts are laying off thousands of classified support staff at their own peril, since these maintenance, security, clerical and other workers are critical to the operation of every district, said Allan Clark, president of the California School Employees Association. “We appreciate the governor heeding our calls to restore current-year school transportation funds, but more education cuts loom next year. Our local schools are already seriously understaffed, so we have to find a way to prevent more cuts.”
The governor’s budget proposal uses unacceptable “triggers” for cuts for the second year in a row, opening the door for mid-year cuts next fiscal year that make it very hard for school districts to plan their budgets, said Jill Wynns, president of the California School Boards Association and a member of the San Francisco Unified school board. Her district recently issued more than 500 precautionary layoff notices for educators and support staff.
“The Education Coalition opposes the disproportionate $4.8 billion in trigger reductions to our schools and community colleges that would kick in if the governor’s November tax initiative fails,” Wynns said. “Our schools would suffer 90 percent of the $5.4 billion in total trigger cuts, and that’s unthinkable.”
The trigger of $4.8 billion in education cuts would be equivalent to another 55,000 teacher layoffs, or 120,000 classified employee layoffs, or reducing the school year by 17 days, the Education Coalition is warning.
Speakers agreed today that the integrity of Proposition 98, the voter-approved minimum funding guarantee for schools, must be preserved in state budget deliberations. The Education Coalition opposes the governor’s inclusion of $2.4 billion of debt service payments in the Prop. 98 funding guarantee as both inappropriate and unconstitutional.
“The governor’s budget proposal is unacceptable to parents across California,” said California State PTA officer Susan Nathan of Fremont, president of the Peralta PTA District covering Alameda County. “Parents are willing to stand and fight for more revenues to prevent more cuts to our schools. Families can’t take seeing their children lose more academic resources.”
If New Haven Unified fails to pass its local Measure H parcel tax on June 5 to help ease some district cuts, the financially strapped district “will have much of its quality education programs wiped out by state cuts,” said Charmaine Banther, president of the New Haven Teachers Association.
“Much of what teachers, parents and this community have worked to build up the past 30 years – the magic and the promise of our schools – will be gone when students return to their classrooms in the fall,” Banther said. “Slashing music, art and science classes and raising class sizes will hurt the children here for years to come.”
The California Education Coalition represents more than 2.5 million educators, parents, administrators, school board members, school employees and other education advocates in California.