Here we go again . . .

Tonight the Board voted to issue layoff notices to 140 teachers and 108 paraprofessionals, and to eliminate 32 teaching positions in the Child Development Program. Last week, the Board voted in closed session to issue layoff notices to another 139 administrators.

All of this can make one feel numb — since I joined the Board of Education in early 2009, I have been asked to vote for large-scale layoffs each March.  In a way, it’s kind of a dance: the state requires us to notify certificated employees who may be laid off by March 15, a date when districts generally have no idea what their final revenues will be; in addition, in order to trigger our eligibility for the City’s Rainy Day Fund (which may contribute as much as $8 million to the school district this year), the district must be facing layoffs.  So SFUSD must take steps to plan for the worst case scenario in order to avoid the worst case scenario.

Still, this dance will affect lives and classrooms across the district and it’s important to remember why we are here, again, this year: California does not adequately fund its schools,  and so again we are faced with the choice of whether to cut off an arm here or a leg there. None of the choices are good and all of them hurt.

Some of the speakers before the Board tonight said we had a choice — in the form of Federal “Edujobs” stimulus funds or Rainy Day Funds — to avoid layoffs. However, it’s important to remember that  the $10 million we have banked from Edujobs and the $8 million we are expecting to get from the Rainy Day Fund are figured into the scenario already, and that scenario has lots of IFs:

  • IF the Legislature allows Californians to vote on the Governor’s proposal to extend sales taxes and other revenue measures in June, and IF those revenue measures pass by a simple majority of the voters,  the Edujobs and Rainy Day money will basically help us avoid further cuts this year, and restore all of the positions noticed under today’s layoff vote.
  • But IF the vote to place the revenue measures on the June ballot fails to gain the support of two-thirds of the Legislature, or IF the voters do not pass those measures by a simple majority, then the Edujobs and Rainy Day money is figured into helping us avoid even deeper cuts.

A better, long-term solution is to make this process more streamlined and more humane. It’s silly to make districts forecast their staffing budgets in early March, before the state’s budget process has really even ramped up; it’s also silly to make districts forecast those revenues three years out as part of the requirement to pass a final budget by June 30  (a requirement that forces districts to be more conservative in managing their future liabilities than they might otherwise be).  Finally, we need to make sure that students and classrooms are insulated from the budget/layoff dance as much as possible.

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