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Santa Clara Unified Slashes Jobs

By Vanessa Castanaeda | 21 Dec 2009

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SANTA CLARA—Santa Clara U.S.D. will lay off 60 teachers on March 15 as it struggles to balance its $130 million budget after the Nov. 3 defeat of ballot Measure C, a parcel tax that could have prevented education cuts in the next academic year.

Measure C would have raised enough money over five years to offset the district’s $20 million deficit. Now, the county will have to slash personnel costs, which account for 80 percent of the budget.

“It [Measure C] should have been something that was looked at favorably, and now we’re going to have to make other cuts which will be more draconian than what two furlough days were,” said Andrew Ratermann, Vice President of the Santa Clara Board of Education.

The district had proposed furlough days as an alternative to workforce reduction prior to placing the measure on the ballot, which would have reduced teacher pay by about one percent. The district annually spends $80,000-$100,000 per teacher, including benefits.
The superintendent will now have to revise one of his top priorities, keeping a 20-to-one student to teacher ratio.

Until last year, if a class at the grade level had gone above the 20 students per teacher goal, the district lost $1,071 per student from the State of California.

However, from now until 2011, the district’s contract says that schools will still receive funding if classes are from 20 to 30, but the district receives per pupil money to cover only up to 20 students. If a classroom has 30 students, the district gets $750 per student up to the 20th, yet nothing for the last 10. The difference per classroom is about $6,000-$7,000.

“I never thought I’d be recommending this, but we need to get off of the 20:1 and staff at a ratio between 25-30:1 as our contracts allow,” said District Superintendent Steve Stavis.

Increases in classroom size will result in the termination of about 60 teachers, saving an estimated $2.5 million per year, according to Stavis, although the district’s enrollment is expected to go up from about 14,800 to 15,200 students in the next three years.
Santa Clara County teachers are among 20,000 teachers laid off in California this year.

The superintendent’s office did not take Measure C’s potential revenue into consideration when drafting the Nov. 24 budget presentation.

Besides personnel cuts, the district is looking for other revenue sources to help balance the budget. Among them: performance-based education funds, income generated from a new sports stadium and transfers from other education accounts.

Governor Schwarzenegger hopes to get $500 million in Race to the Top education grants for California schools. The applications are due January 19, 2010; and the winners are will be announced in April.

To qualify for that funding, the district would have to link teacher pay to student performance, which is not pleasing teachers in the Santa Clara district.

“It irritates me when people put so much weight on testing, because it doesn’t mean a whole lot to a teacher,” said Ann Marie Pomeroy, kindergarten teacher at Pomeroy Elementary. “It should be more about whether a child has made improvements while they were here. If you want to base my salary on how much improvement I’ve made in a child, great.”

How much the district stands to gain from the grant is unclear, according to Assistant Superintendent Lisa Cesario. Right now, the district is focusing on what they need to submit to qualify for the grant.
The district also hopes that the San Francisco 49ers will build a stadium in the Santa Clara, infusing the district’s budget with about $26 million in 2019. The school district would benefit if the city decides to subsidize the construction of the 68,500-seat stadium with about $114 million in public funds.

“The district gets money if the redevelopment agency decides to create the debt, even if the stadium doesn’t get built,” Andrew Ratermann, Vice President of the Santa Clara Board of Education, said.

Voters will decide whether to fund that or not in the primary election on June 8, 2010.

In the meantime, the district plans to compensate by using $10 million in principal and interest from the sale of surplus property for general operating costs. Previously, the district could only use the interest off of funds earned when surplus property was sold.

Overall, revenues went down by about $7 million and expenditures went up by about $10 million for the fiscal 2010 budget compared to last year. The property tax revenue in the district went 2 percent in the red for the revised 09-10 budget year, down from the first budget’s projection of a quarter of a percent.

The district, considered a “property rich” district, is expected to give a percentage of property tax revenues to other school districts to share the financial burden of educating California’s children.

To afford to pay this year’s payment and last year’s deferred payment, the district is transferring $1.5 million into the general fund from Adult Education, $500,000 from deferred maintenance, $200,000 from a special reserve fund, and $100,000

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