Given the financial stresses facing California school districts and the uncertain outcome of Gov. Jerry Brown’s November tax initiative, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office thinks state lawmakers should:
- reduce the minimum school year from 175 to 170 days
- remove the strings attached to even more special-purpose funding streams, such as Partnership Academies and K-3 class-size reduction funding. (To see what might happen to such programs when districts can use the money for any legal purpose, look no further than to adult education, which lost its protections in 2009.)
- lift restrictions on outside contracts for services not related to teaching (food services, clerical, maintenance)
- make major changes to the teacher layoff timeline, including a rolling emergency layoff window in the event of mid-year cuts
- adopt the governor’s proposal for k-12 funding restructuring by replacing the current reimbursement system with a “weighted student formula” or block grants. (The list of restricted programs that would merge into that formula is on page 4 of the report on the previous link.)
What do you make of these recommendations? You can find further explanation at the bottom of this report, which includes a survey of school districts. About 60 percent of the districts surveyed reported instituting three furlough days in 2010-11, and slightly fewer in the current year.
The layoff proposal, explained:
We recommend the state change the statutory deadlines for both final and contingency layoff notifications. Though districts already have initiated their layoff processes based on the March 15 notification requirement, we recommend the Legislature move the final notification date from May 15 to August 1. This would give districts more certainty as to both the final state budget package and important local information (such as teacher retirements or resignations) prior to finalizing their layoff decisions. Additionally, we recommend the Legislature replace the existing August layoff window with a rolling emergency window whereby districts could lay off staff midyear if the state makes significant budget changes. With a guaranteed post–election layoff option to address potential midyear trigger cuts, school districts might lay off fewer teachers heading into the 2012–13 school year.
John Fensterwald, a former Mercury News editorial writer who now blogs for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, brought my attention to the LAO report, via a piece in the Educated Guess. You can read his in-depth summary of the district survey and the agency’s recommendations here.