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MDUSD bracing for worst based on May revise, other districts may not be so hard hit at first

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 5:18 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Gov. Jerry Brown released his revised 2012-13 budget today, revealing dire projections for K-12 education if voters reject his planned tax proposal in November.

Here’s our overview of the revised budget proposal:

Brown’s budget would allow districts to cut the school year by a combined total of 15 days in 2012-13 and 2013-14, to balance their budgets, if state trigger cuts are pulled.

The Mt. Diablo school district, which expects to look at budget reductions Monday, may consider 12 furlough days in 2012-13 if the taxes don’t pass. School board president Sherry Whitmarsh told me this would likely mean the district would shorten the school year by two weeks (10 days) and eliminate two teacher in-service days.

Since the board cut elementary music education, Whitmarsh said she has noticed a decline in music students at the secondary level. To keep from further eroding music and other important programs, Whitmarsh said she would prefer to have furlough days than other cuts, such as increasing minimum class size requirements.

Now, classes must have at least 20 students, she said. But that could increase to 32, which would eliminate some small programs (such as music classes or AP classes).

Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me the following comments in an email, in response to the May revise:

“We are very concerned around the budget proposal for several reasons:

1. If the taxes pass, it makes it look like the state is adding a great deal of funding to education when in reality they are just paying back the deferrals. So, districts will only see a minimal increase in our funding per unit of ADA (Average Daily Attendance).

2. Our preliminary calculations show that if the governor’s tax initiative does not pass we will be reduced by $520 per ADA or over $16 million. A reduction this size would be devastating.”

The Contra Costa County Office of Education is advising districts to budget conservatively, with the worst-case scenario in mind, said spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn. This means planning for the November tax initiatives to fail.

“The budget news is worse than we have been anticipating, with the ballooning of the deficit,” she said. “But, every district is different. They all have different reserves. They all have different revenue streams and different priorities. A couple of districts have given raises. Others are looking at furloughs. Each district’s finanicial picture is very individual.”

Both the Mt. Diablo and John Swett districts have filed “qualified” budgets, meaning they may not be able to pay their bills in three years. Mt. Diablo is at impasse with its teachers’ union, which is seeking a one-time bonus that would repay employees for three furlough days taken last year.

Teachers in the union plan to protest past cuts before Monday’s board meeting.

Would you rather see MDUSD cut programs or impose furlough days?

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