LAO proposes even shorter year, fewer special-purpose funds, changes to teacher layoff deadline

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:

  1. reduce the minimum school year from 175 to 170 days
  2. 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.)
  3. lift restrictions on outside contracts for services not related to teaching (food services, clerical, maintenance)
  4. make major changes to the teacher layoff timeline, including a rolling emergency layoff window in the event of mid-year cuts
  5. 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.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Charley Cowens

    1-4 all involve giving local districts more leeway in how they use their resource. 5 involves getting away from our current unsatisfactory random revenue limit + categoricals system for funding schools. Sounds promising. I’ve always found the March/May credentialed layoff system in California particularly weird.

  • Catherine

    For advanced students in Oakland the shorter school year will probably mean higher learning in the summer through online coursework, individual learning and summer enrichment programs, particularly science, drama, music and art.

    For students who are struggling those few days will make a big difference in their learning and consistency for the school year.

  • makeitgoaway

    It will mean the crime rate will go up.

    It will mean teachers make less.

    it will mean more work for less pay.

    it will mean lower scores in AP classes.

    it will mean lower graduation rates.

    It will mean even more foolish spending on consultants.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    It is a scary thought that we allow the “district” more “leeway” in how they spend resources. When so much money is spent on outside contracts in OUSD and so little trickles down to the very people this district is meant to serve, how can we even think that is good? The wolf guarding the hen house.
    Penalizing students and teachers is their first approach toward a solution. How about we limit the amount of money NOT spend going directly to serve our students? How about lowering the administrator student ratio?
    5 less days for students …then blame teachers for lower test scores.
    Raise student teacher ratios…then blame teachers for lower test scores.
    Lift restrictions on outside contracts for services not related to teaching….less money for students…blame teachers for lower test scores.
    Allow the school district and state more time to mess with teacher’s livelihood and job security, demoralize the very people who serve these students…and blame them for low morale….and lower test scores.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler


  • Zinnia

    Just checking…does this mean that we do not only have to worry about losing our jobs in May, but may be left without a job midyear? So much for providing a stable atmosphere for Oakland youth.

  • Michael Kinsley

    Although I have long had a great deal of respect for the LAO, why don’t they just say that the State of California gives up. I would imagine that the opponents of public education might have put a few bottles of champagne on ice after reading the report. Pity none of our elected officials can find their spines.

  • Gordon Danning

    No one who cares at all about students would allow mid-year layoffs. It is obviously harmful to an elementary student to suddenly be thrown into a new teacher’s class in February, but it is possibly even worse for middle school or high school students: If Teacher X is laid off in February, all 30 of his, for example, 3rd period Economics students will have to be reassigned to new Econ classes. Since all 30 cannot be put in an existing classroom, most will have to switch to a Period 2 or 4 or 1, etc, class. So, they will need a new math class or whatever they had been taking Period 2. Realistically, most will need several changes. And if they are enrolled in a “singleton” class, like AP Chem or Yearbook, then they might have to drop that class in order to accommodate the new schedule.

    All in all, this seems like a suggestion made by someone who is completely ignorant of how schools work.