Though the passage of Prop. 30 may have averted a billion-dollar blow to the public-school system in California, the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is still projecting a “growing structural deficit” due to shrinking state revenue caused by the continued economic downturn. The school district also anticipates a drop in federal funds if the looming “fiscal-cliff” crisis isn’t resolved by year’s end.
The LBUSD Board of Education approved the latest round of budget cuts during its Dec. 18 meeting that would reduce General Fund expenditures by an estimated $13.8 million in 2013-14. Newly recommended cuts include eliminating summer school next year, reducing teacher and certificated and classified support-staff positions through attrition and reducing funding for special education.
Other cuts during this phase of budget reductions the board has already approved include closing Monroe K-8 school in Lakewood, closing 6th- through 8th-grade classes at David Burcham school and reducing transportation costs.
Despite the cuts, however, it may have been worse. School officials warned earlier this year that there would have been more devastating cuts if voters didn’t pass Prop. 30, an initiative brought by Gov. Jerry Brown to temporarily increase sales and income taxes to pay for public schools and other state-funded programs.
LBUSD still has to bridge a $20-million budget gap this year, but if the proposition were voted down, the school district’s deficit would have ballooned to $35 million annually and may have included a one-month reduction in the school year and the elimination of entire programs, such as high-school sports and elementary music. Since 2008, LBUSD has had to cut more than $330 million and 1,000 jobs, school officials noted.
Still, recent estimates show the school district is facing a cumulative unrestricted General Fund deficit of approximately $57 million for 2014-15, according to a staff report.
The board may consider further budget reductions and revisions in any department, division, program, or service in the district, including, but not limited to, items listed, as well as reductions in force or in hours for represented and non-represented certificated and classified positions.
In addition, recommended actions of reducing unrestricted General Fund expenditures may include “utilization of categorical funding, revenue enhancements, realignment of priorities, and implementation of other measures designed to safeguard the district’s fiscal health,” according to the staff report.
LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser said the elimination of summer school is being recommended due to upcoming projected declines in federal funding due in large part to issues involving the fiscal cliff, a term used to describe economic effects of tax increases, spending cuts and the federal budget deficit in 2013 that Congress has been debating in recent weeks.
He said the school district pays for summer school through federal Title 1 funding that is expected to be slashed. “We’ve been told already that we will lose at least 8.4 percent of all of our federal funds,” Steinhauser said.
Title 1 brings in roughly $32 million to the school district, he said, adding that the school district lost an additional $4 million in Title 1 this year.
“Unfortunately, the economic situation in our nation has added more students to Title 1 status, but they haven’t added the appropriate dollars to the Title 1 status,” Steinhauser said. “Right now we are spending more and charging more to Title 1 than we have, and we’ve been able to do that, because of our carry over funds… So, we’re looking at how we can be prepared for the fiscal cliff issue.”
Steinhauser said any high school student in the 12th grade who is credit efficient would still have the opportunity to go to Educational Partnership High School or city college to make up credits. He said school staff who rely on general education summer school will have to find other employment opportunities for the summer next year.
LBUSD Board Vice President John McGinnis, however, tabled whether to eliminate the $1-million Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which prepares students for college through mentors and tutors and other programs.
“I don’t want to eliminate or even substantially reduce a program of this value without having more information as to who it would impact and how it’s going to impact,” he said.
Those involved in the college-readiness system pleaded with school-district boardmembers to save it. However, Steinhauser said the federal program is now going to start charging school districts up to $3,000 per site, which could add another $70,000 to LBUSD’s charges. He said the plan is to reduce the AVID program based on the number of students using it.