In another measure resulting from a significant loss of state funding, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education has called for the reduction of 92 full-time employee positions.
The board voted Thursday, February 18th to approve the issuance of layoff notices to employees such as counselors, nurses, and elementary and secondary school teachers, citing a requirement that the notices be sent out no later than March 15th.
Board members noted that the 92-employee figure represents a “worst-case scenario,” and the total number of positions at risk could be dropped if other actions take effect.
“We really don’t have much of a choice but we’re in a situation where this (92 cuts) is the worst-case scenario,” school board President Barry Snell said of the layoff notice vote. “Hopefully those cuts won’t have to materialize if other things happen.”
The board has already voted to place a $198 parcel tax on a special mail-in ballot May 25th and is considering a tentative agreement with the Classroom Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union to end the school year five days earlier this year and next with employee furloughs.
These measures are intended to help close an anticipated $14 million budget deficit after the district has lost $10 million in state funding over the last two years and is expected to lose additional funding under the current state budget crisis. The parcel tax initiative, which requires approval by two-thirds of voters, would generate $5.7 million for the district, while the furloughs would create $2 million annually.
The number of employees facing layoffs could also be reduced through attrition and early retirement incentives, board members explained. Board member Oscar de la Torre said he hopes that at its March 4th meeting, the board will have a better understanding of how many layoffs could be avoided through such steps. The parcel tax approval would save at least 75 teacher positions, he said.
“It’s a travesty that public education is in the state that we’re in but we have a fiduciary responsibility to make the type of reductions necessary to have a balanced budget,” de la Torre said of the layoff vote.
Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association President Harry Keiley said the teachers union was disappointed in the number of layoff notices approved but it too, remains hopeful that the ultimate number will be drastically reduced once certain measures are effective.
“If the school funding measure passes and other factors fall into place for us, we are hopeful that we will be able to rescind the layoff notices,” Keiley said.
He said the magnitude of cuts currently being discussed would be devastating to the schools and the teachers union will work to preserve as many of the positions that it can.
Several community members voiced concerns to the board regarding the loss of the elementary school music program, saying that the program is vital to the children’s educational development.
De la Torre says he is a strong supporter of music and the arts and also believes such programs are important in youth development, but cuts need to be made when there is not enough funding available to maintain them.
“The reality is that we have to look at all the options and make informed and effective decisions if we don’t have the money to support what we believe in,” he said.