The Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education approved nearly $27 million in cuts this week, including the closure of two schools and the elimination of 429 teaching positions because of a new policy of increased class sizes. In all, the number of certificated positions affected by layoff notices could rise to more than 620 as the school board considers further cuts in the coming weeks.
The school board is facing well over $100 million in cuts to be made over the next two years in response to the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis, which LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser describes as the worst he has seen in his more than 30 years in education. The school district already has cut more than $170 million in the last three years.
The cuts approved this week are part of preparations for a worst-case scenario at the state level, which could occur if the state legislature and California voters do not approve the extension of certain temporary tax increases in the coming months. Even under a best-case scenario budget, the school district must still cut about $53 million over two years. Therefore, even if California voters decide to extend current taxes, the 429 eliminated teaching positions in Long Beach would likely not be restored.
The school board also discussed, but did not act upon, roughly $45 million in additional cuts that they will reconsider Feb. 15. Those cuts, along with the ones approved this week, will affect a wide array of programs, resulting not only in larger class sizes, school closures and hundreds of layoffs of teachers, but also job losses for central office staff, school administrators, librarians, nurses, psychologists, counselors and others. About $10 million in savings would come from reductions at the central office, which has already seen deep cuts in recent years. Instructional programs, school safety, sports, music, transportation and other services would be affected, in some cases significantly. Proposed cuts to transportation, for instance, would eliminate all home-to-school transportation except for legally required special-education busing.
The larger class sizes approved by the school board this week mean that for grades six to 12, average class sizes would increase by three students to 35. For grades kindergarten through three, classes would increase by between five and 10 students (depending on the school) for an average of 30 students per class. The increased class sizes will save the school district about $26 million.
At the same meeting this week, the school board also considered, but did not vote upon, a preliminary certificated layoff resolution detailing the kinds of services to be reduced or eliminated for the upcoming school year. The preliminary resolution identified roughly 621 positions, or “full-time equivalents,” for possible elimination. The resolution is scheduled to be considered for board action on Feb. 15.
The cuts approved this week include the closures of Burroughs and Buffum elementary schools after this school year, due to the budget crisis and declining enrollment.
As part of LBUSD’s continued cost-cutting efforts, school district staff had been examining the possible closure of smaller schools to improve efficiency. Burroughs and Buffum will close because they have relatively small numbers of students. Buffum, located at 2350 Ximeno Ave., has 295 students. Burroughs, located at 1260 E. 33rd St. in Signal Hill, has 291 students. In both cases, other nearby schools have the capacity to serve the displaced students.
Declining enrollment districtwide has exacerbated budget woes because schools receive most of their funding based on student attendance. The small numbers of students at Burroughs and Buffum have reduced the efficiency of those schools. LBUSD’s enrollment has declined by about 14,000 students over the past decade.
In light of the decision to close the two schools, the school board also approved revised school attendance boundaries so that nearby schools can accommodate the displaced students.