Schools brace for ‘Pink Slip Friday’

High school courses will be cut

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th, a fitting day for “Pink Friday,” the last day school districts can issue preliminary pink slips to California teachers telling them they may lose their jobs.

Parents, teachers, administrators, students and others will speak out against the notices at a rally scheduled for 4 p.m. at Agoura High School.

The precautionary layoff notices will be sent to 60 teachers, counselors, deans, librarians and other employees by tomorrow.

The district must cut $2.6 million from the budget every year for the next four years, said Donald Zimring, superintendent of the Las Virgenes Unified School District. Juggling the needs of the 13 LVUSD schools while adhering to a litany of laws and other requirements for education mandates will be a challenge, Zimering said.

California’s $42 billion budget shortfall is predicted to be the most devastating financial blow to public education since the passage of Proposition 13. Passed by voters in 1978, Prop. 13 changed how schools were funded by the state. Property taxes were capped and school funding became dependent on fluctuating state budgets.

“This is the most difficult fiscal time we’ve ever had in public education,” Zimring said. “This eclipses Prop. 13.”

Bigger classes, fewer courses

In the new budget, class sizes will increase, first in high school math and English classes followed by elementary schools if necessary. Smaller class sizes in first and second grade will be preserved first, LVUSD Chief Financial Official Karen Kimmel said.

Dizzying new rules allow some larger classroom sizes in the primary grades, but schools will be penalized on a sliding scale for each student who exceeds a 20 studentperclass limit for kindergarten through third grade. So although teachers might be laid off, the layoffs could lead to financial penalties, Kimmel said.

The district will also save money by not buying new textbooks, deferring grounds maintenance, reducing administration, and centralizing technology, counseling and library services.

Elementary counseling services will be scaled back, and many secondary school counselors and deans will be laid off. College and career support personnel will be combined with high school counseling services.

English language learner programs and staff development at the elementary school level will be reduced, said Rose Dunn, LVUSD director of elementary education.

High school courses will also be cut. Zimring said the cuts will be offset by the offering of more Regional Occupational Programs (ROP).

LVUSD says it will not reduce the number of school days to save money.

Future funding remains

somewhat brighter

Twelve million dollars of onetime funds from a variety of sources will provide some flexibility, Zimring said. The funding will be spread out over five years to sustain some basic services while staving off future cuts.

Legislators at the 11th hour voted to cut more funding to categorical programs (restricted money earmarked for specific uses) rather than slash funding streams that offered each district more spending flexibility—a move that pleased Las Virgenes educators.

Other funding sources are more secure. Grant money, for example, remains secure.

“Under these budget realities, while we cannot expect to be able to provide all services at the levels we have had, we are committed to continue to provide the high quality of educational services our district is known for, and we are working to retain as many of our talented and dedicated personnel as possible,” school board President Dave Moorman said. Not over yet

Several propositions planned for the May ballot could have a positive impact on education.

Proposition 1A includes a onecent-per-dollar increase in the state sales tax and a doubling of the state’s vehicle licensing fee. Personal income tax will also increase. Spending caps are also included in the state’s new spending bill and a mandatory rainy day fund will be established.

If Prop. 1B passes, half the rainy day fund would go into a fund that covers a disputed $8 billion shortfall in what is owed to California schools under Proposition 98. Prop 98 is a constitutional guarantee of minimum education funding.

Proposition 1C proposes selling $5 billion of future state lottery proceeds to offset proposed budget cuts.

Prop. 1D is another means to free up state money. Also known as the Children and Families Trust Fund Act, the initiative would redirect $608 million to pay for development programs for children through age 5.

Kimmel said the upcoming propositions serve as “key pins to keep the package together.”

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