September 18, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

New Funding Eliminates School Layoffs:

Class sizes will be reduced, 20 teachers reinstated, and arts programs restored for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District 2010-11 school year thanks to $1.5 million from the Save Our Schools campaign and extra one-time federal funding.

The Board of Education announced the funding and budget changes at the meeting on Aug. 18 at the district headquarters. The announcement came with projected cuts still on the table and a frugal outlook for the coming years.

Expenditure reductions now are $6.8 million thanks to the frantic SOS fundraising of $1.5 million. The net result of all cuts and budget improvements there remains a $3.9 million deficit for the school year, about a quarter of what was originally expected.

The board treaded lightly over dividing funds and where teachers were needed most, decidedly at the youngest grades. The district allocated all but $941 of the SOS funding for the fall.

The district did face $12 million shortfall for 2010-11 and $14 million shortfall each year after. The State is facing a $21 billion deficit and does not have a balanced budget.

“If we don’t make sustainable funds in the future, we will have to make reductions,” said Superintendent Tim Cuneo.

He advised the board to look at staffing prudently so they would not have to do a “constant cycle of hire, fire, hire, fire, which really is very difficult for a district culture and climate in trying to provide consistency.”

SOS Funds Increased Staffing

With increased funding streaming in the last week scrambled to allocate funds for the coming year. Teachers will be added across the board to reduce students per class and increase music programs.

At the elementary level 9.5 teachers will be reinstated. Staffing provided reduced class size of 25 students at the elementary level at all four grades, Kindergarten to third grade, to create an even number of students moving through the system with each coming year.

A total of 8.25 elementary music, library, and counseling positions were restored.

Council member Ralph Mechur pushed for smaller classrooms in elementary at 23 per class so not to “short change” students. This would mean using more State and Federal funding as it came in, instead of setting aside money for “professional development.”

Cuneo countered that classes in later years will have to be combined. Funding from SOS and the late arrival of federal money means future years may not support staff increases. One year ahead, may mean tough years to come.

“This is not just a feel good thing, this is a realism thing and we have been deficit spending for some time, putting more jobs back could put us in a worse position if some things don’t happen,” said Council member Barry Snell.

All board members are banking on further funding from the city.

At the secondary level two full-time instructors will be added to Santa Monica High School and 1.6 instructors, a full and part-time position, will be added to Malibu High. Two of the positions were created with the Save Our Schools Campaign funding and the rest is from federal funding.

The board split the $729,000 designated for secondary class size reduction and counselors in half. Each middle school will get one full-time employee from federal funding. Counseling money will support the three additional counselors added back in June.

Music education programs will get 2.5 full-time employees from SOS funding and will combine additional federal funding to restore a total of four positions that had been eliminated last year. SOS raised about $397,000.

All four library-coordinators will be restored as well. This keeps every library open every school day instead of the proposed three days a week.

Additional Funding Sources

A federal jobs bill is expected for California to save positions in school services, said a Citizens Oversight Committee representative, an estimate of $1.3 million for SMMUSD. This must be allocated for two school years. The State has yet to apply for the funds.

The Santa Monica City Council approved a 0.5 percent tax increase measure to support schools on the November election ballot. The tax proposal can generate $12 million for the city with a tax raise on a transitional and use tax, a broad type of sales tax.

The City Council plans to use half of the money for schools, although there is no legal requirement on the ballot.

State funding for average daily attendance for students, the district is at 95 percent attendance, is unlikely to add additional funding due to the already high number.

The committee reiterated the uncertainty of such funds from alternate sources, although seen as a hope for the future. The FOC advised the board to look to the long-term view and spend conservatively.

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