The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s School Board approved the lay-off of 92 certificated employees on February 18 due to the impact of California’s state budget crisis on the district’s budget. However, some of these lay-offs may not have to be made if the special temporary parcel tax is approved by the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu by a special mail-in ballot on May 25.
Another factor that could reduce the number of lay-offs according to the District Assistant Superintendent, Michael Matthews, is if the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) ratifies their tentative contract with the district which contains a new early retirement incentive.
This Board vote was based on the need to satisfy state law that employees need to be notified by March 15 if they are not going working to be for the district during the next calendar year. The district’s Human Resources department will now prepare a list of specific employees based on seniority who will receive lay-off notices for the Board to approve at their March 4 Board meeting.
The district’s elementary schools would be hit hardest by the cuts. If implemented 42 full time equivalent elementary teaching positions would be lost and 10 in elementary music instruction. Three full time nursing positions would also be lost as well as six in secondary counseling services.
Those from the community who spoke were opposed to the cuts in the elementary music program. Education activist Zina Josephs noted that if the cuts were made to the elementary music program children of parents who can’t afford private lessons would suffer. She also mentioned the importance of music education in enhancing a child’s ability in math and science. She stressed that music education “is not just fluff, it’s not extra-curricular it’s part of the core academic curriculum.”
The President of SMMCTA, Harry Keiley, told the Board his organization opposed the cuts because the “budget assumptions [they are based upon] are too conservative so the lay-offs are excessive.”
Two of the seven Board members voted against the lay-offs. Board member Ralph Mechur wanted to delay the vote until the next Board meeting. Board member Oscar De la Torre worried that if they approved the lay-offs that night that would be averted later “people will begin to look elsewhere and morale would be affected.”
Before the vote, the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Janice Maez, emphasized that the Governor’s budget is recommending a cut for the 2010-2011 academic year of at least $201 per student which would translate into a total loss of $2.2 million in revenue to the district. Her office is predicting that the district will be facing a $12 million deficit for the 2010-2011 academic school year so even if the new parcel tax passes the Board will still have to make significant budget cuts.
Finalized lay-offs would be made on June 18 when the Board adopts its 2010-2011 budget.
Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com