Budget Cuts Force District to Desperate Measures

Elizabeth Lenczowski, Elizabeth Lenczowski, and Elizabeth Lenczowski

Since Thursday, March 4, 75 teachers in the Acalanes Union High School District have received preliminary layoff notices in response to the $4.8 million cut to the district’s 2010-2011 budget.  To offset the decreased funding, the community is urging the passage of Measure A, an emergency parcel tax of $112. Should Measure A win by a two-thirds majority, most of these teachers will not receive final layoff notices and many programs will be restored. Measure A is a mail-in election ending May 4.

“If the parcel tax was to pass and revenues were not cut too much more in Sacramento, we should be able to restore the programs and services that currently are being cut and for which layoff notices were issued,” said Assistant Superintendent John Nickerson.

However, because the district has already taken definitive action to decrease spending, some teachers will receive final layoff notices before May 15 even if the parcel tax passes.

“Most teachers will be brought back, but not all,” said AUHSD Governing Board President Vanessa Crews.  “Some of these reductions are made because of true reductions in programs such as the closure of Del Oro High School.”

In addition to the preliminary layoffs, some staff were given precautionary notices.

“About another dozen staff members received a notice saying they might go from a non-classroom position (i.e. librarians) to a classroom position,” said Superintendent John Stockton.  “If the parcel tax is not successful, final notices will be issued on May 6, 7, 10, and 11.”

Additionally, on Wednesday, March 3, the AUHSD and the Acalanes Education Association (AEA) agreed to a three-year teacher contract.

“This agreement exemplifies a sincere desire by our teachers to do their part, and much more, to buffer our students from the full brunt of state funding cutbacks,” said Stockton in a district email on March 5.

The district says the budget cuts have forced them to alter the teacher contracts by including specific, economizing measures.  The new contract includes a 0% salary increase for the teachers for the next two school years. Each year, the district will save an estimated $1.2 million as a result of this agreement.

The AEA has agreed to five furlough days for the next two years.  Furlough days reduce the number of work days, resulting in lower pay for teachers.  Students will have two fewer days of instruction, and teachers will have three fewer days of staff development. The addition of furlough days will save the district approximately $625,000 per year.

The contract also includes a provision to increase each teacher’s student contacts by ten for the next two years, resulting in an increase of two students per class.  This will save the district an estimated $800,000 per year.

The district has agreed to pay retirees’ health benefits for up to five years or until an employer of government medical program takes over.

However, the district has agreed to cover the cost of increasing health benefits, costing approximately $73,000 for 2009-2010. These benefits will be in accordance with the CalPERS Kaiser Family rates which began on Jan. 1, 2010.