School Budget Study Session Reveals Effects of Cuts

Burbank Unified School District staff members on Thursday updated the Board of Education on the district’s budget situation, presenting the most recent financial projections and the potential fallout of local cuts amid the threat of state funding reductions — a situation that itself appeared highly changeable.
The figures shared at a special meeting were in accordance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May revise — a proposal that would severely cut school funding due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — but they could change if he approves the budget agreed upon by both houses of the California Legislature on Monday. That version would essentially eliminate the 10% reduction proposed by the governor.
“The legislature is still negotiating the budget proposal with the governor,” BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill wrote recently in one of his weekly updates. “We need to continue our advocacy and email the governor and legislature. Tell the governor to adopt the legislature’s plan. Without the support of the governor and legislature, BUSD will be forced to adopt the governor’s May revise, which means $13 million in budget reductions.”
Debbie Kukta, the BUSD’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, said staff members were told during a conference call with a Los Angeles County Office of Education official that “rumors started circulating” that a compromise deal was close and an announcement was expected by the end of Friday. As of the Leader’s press deadline, the governor had not announced a budget agreement between him and the legislature.
The school board listened to nearly an hour of pleas and recommendations from community members and employees regarding proposed cuts to the 2020-21 budget prior to discussing the ramifications of potential terminations and reductions to various positions.
“Nobody wants to make these cuts,” Hill said. “I was reflecting on a book I’m reading with my son, ‘The Hatchet.’ In the book, they talk about looking at every single tool you have available to you, every resource you have to address the situation. The story is about survival. I’m frustrated with our governor because I feel like our governor has picked up one of many tools, he picked up a hatchet and he’s cutting the legs out of public education.”
Eliminating the Gifted and Talented Education coordinator’s position — an option cited by the staff —would suspend the program’s master plan and parents would not have a resource to assist them with their students’ academic and emotional needs.
Another possibility involves cutting the career technical education and arts coordinator’s job, a move that would affect business partnerships and make it more difficult for teachers to navigate the credentialing process. The coordinator deals with grant writing, helps BUSD qualify for grants, evaluates programs and supports art teachers.
The biggest potential cuts would fall on educational services, including teachers, assistant principals and middle school world language teachers. That would reduce the number of elective choices in middle schools and site administrators would have to carry a bigger workload without any assistant principals.
The number of students benefiting from such services would be cut in half, as well as classroom lessons delivered, attendance and parent meetings.
An increase in middle and high school class sizes was also in the cards. If a classroom were to increase to 34 students, it would eliminate three full-time employees and the district would save an estimated $285,324. Having 40 students per class would terminate about 40 employees for a savings of $3,804,320.
Another possibility would be to reduce the hours of library coordinators and media technicians, which would greatly reduce library services and hours. Fewer technicians or a reduction of their hours would impact the operation of the computer lab and assistance for teachers and staff when it comes to technology.
Multiple parents asked the board not to reduce the staff of the English Language Development program, which helps students whose first language is not English. District staff members noted that cutting two employees would leave only two teachers, whose workload would increase tremendously.
Another possible cut discussed by the staff involved music teachers, a move that would eliminate elementary music instruction, physical education assistance and curriculum specialists.
Board member Steve Ferguson made a passionate plea to community members, urging them to continue writing to the governor’s office.
“We are looking at this program by program,” he said, “a simple $20,000 more or less to determine whether or not an entire program is left standing here or not. Every letter does count.
“The governor is sitting there playing politics with our kids’ futures and is willing to undo 10 years’ worth of financial progress, with the progress of our schools, because he doesn’t want to dip into the budget reserves too much. This is politics. … Collective action means everything.”

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