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Our View: Sacramento needs to stop harming our local schools

Posted: February 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

Here we go again.

This week, the cruel game of notifying local school district employees that they may be laid off because of budget shortfalls began.

More than 80 Saugus Union School District teachers and counselors were told they may lose their jobs because Sacramento has, for the umpteenth year in a row, not gotten its financial house in order. And, as we all know, what legislators do — or don’t do — up there affects us here locally — especially in our schools.

State law mandates that school districts must notify certain employees that they are in danger of losing their jobs by March 1. But final decisions won’t be made until May, when the governor submits his revised budget and the Legislature moves, one hopes, toward adoption of a final budget for next year by July 1.

If previous years are an indicator of what could happen this year, the employees who are laid off in May could be called back to work in the summer when the yearly budget dance is finally over. 

So this cruel uncertainty lasts for months, causing pain and distraction for teachers and staff, as well as students and parents.

In the case of the Saugus Union district, the potential layoffs would save the district about $2.5 million this year — a significant amount to go toward plugging an estimated $6.7 million budget shortfall.

In that district, those being notified that they may be laid off include 74 classroom teachers.

Any layoffs that may occur would be supplemented with four unpaid days off for every school district employee this year, saving an additional $1.2 million. But more cuts will be needed beyond that, school officials say.

And the Saugus district is not the only district dealing with such financial headaches.

The bottom line is that it is extremely unfortunate our school districts must go through such a harmful process because our state government is unable to enact the necessary structural reforms and change of spending habits that have prompted the financial crisis we currently have in California — a crisis that has hit schools the hardest.

At a recent Saugus school board meeting, parents and students were visibly upset at the possible layoffs. But these same parents and other school supporters are not just sitting by as victims of Sacramento. A petition to start a nonprofit education foundation is circulating, and other proposals, such as a parcel tax, are being floated so the local district does not need to rely as much on the state for money.

But these local moves will not take the place of true financial reform by our state government. As local citizens, we must continue to lobby our state legislators and our governor and tell them to stop cutting education in California. Enough is enough. Stop this cruel game.

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