For the past three weeks all of our attention has been riveted on the war in Iraq. However, other equally important issues, such as those that impact on our schools have dropped below the public’s radar screen.
Prior to the start of shooting, much of our focus had been on the Board Members of the various School Boards as they have tried to balance their school budgets. School administrators crunched the numbers, school employees stressed over the possibility of losing their jobs, and parents worried about the quality of education for their children. It is now time to refocus back on the financial problems being caused by the proposed educational cuts being proposed by the State.
What appears to be one of the hardest hit School Districts is the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD), which already has issued potential layoff notices to 417 teachers and support staff. This is 30 percent of the staffing! There may be more layoffs, before the final cuts, if the present course being followed by the Board of Trustees is allowed to proceed. Final layoffs will be issued in May.
Teachers, Counselors, Vice Principals, Librarians, School Psychologists, Reading Specialist, Second-Language Specialist, Nurses, and many others are schedule to be fired next month in order to live within the proposed state budget cuts. In a school district that is one of the fastest growing in the state, this will have a devastating impact on the quality of education. It will be particularly damaging for our second-language children and children in poverty. In response to critics of the proposed layoffs, the Chula Vista Elementary School Board and school Superintendent Lowell Billings have proposed to increase class sizes, in some instances, increasing class sizes to 30 students per teacher, which will dilute the quality of education being provided.
It has been noted that the Board of Trustees and the Superintendent have been strangely silent about the budget reserves that the CVESD is presently sitting on. According to recent reports the, CVESD is sitting on about $12 million dollars in reserves. The state requires only a 3% ($3.8 million for Chula Vista) reserve be maintained. What this means is that the Board is actually stashing over $8 million dollars in reserves over what the state requires! The district estimated that they needed to cut $7.9 million this year from their budget. They have already trimmed $1 million through administration savings, bringing the budget cut down to $6.9 million. With over $8 million extra still in reserve theschool board could painlessly mitigate this budget crisis, and still maintaining the state mandate of 3% in reserve. The Chula Vista School Board and its Superintendent are not being up front with the Teachers, Parents, and Classified Staff, nor their Union Representatives.
The Board of Trustees has refused to discuss the use of this large excess in funds. Board member Cheryl Cox, at the March 11 Board meeting (reflecting the Board’s attitude) stated: she didn’t want to use the reserve budget for a “quick fix”. If the reserves aren’t for times like this, then when or where will these reserves be used? Apparently the Board members would rather sacrifice the quality of education and fire hundreds of teachers and support staff, than spend their monies. We question just what School of Economics did these Board members attend
It is time for the parents, teachers, administrators, classified workers and members of the community to inform the Chula Vista Elementary School Board what their priorities are! They need to inform the Board of Trustees that they are there to facilitate the education of the children under their responsibility. This is their main responsibility and reason for existence. Spending the reserves now, to maintain the quality of education, is far more preferable than to laying off 417 teachers in Chula Vista. Having eight million dollars, over that required by the state, is criminal if it causes our children to receive an inferior education.
(The next School Board meeting is April 30th VOICE YOUR CONCERNS)