I attended the Newark Unified School District’s budget workshop meeting last night — a session that drew more than 50 people, most of whom were members of the teacher’s and district employee unions — and Chief Business Official Steven Shields told the board of directors that they may need to cut as much as $6 million from the district’s existing and future budgets. The district’s finance team is still interpreting the budget that was passed last week by the governor, so it is unclear exactly how much Newark Unified will need to trim. But Shields projected that it could be as little as $4.5 million and as much as $6 million to be safe.
Shields also spent 90 minutes discussing areas where cuts could be made within the district. This information was almost identical to that which was released during a special session last week. But what was made clear is that the information he was discussing was not a recommendation of what items or programs should be cut, rather options available to the board. Among the hot button items are the class size reduction program, salary reductions and teacher layoffs.
The meeting on Tuesday was informational in nature, so no decisions were made about where to trim the budget. However, decisions are expected to begin to be made at the next board meeting, scheduled to be held March 3. At that time, the district may have an idea if it will need to layoff teachers. If that avenue becomes a possibility for the board, the district will have to notify by March 15 the teachers whose jobs may be changed or cut. Those notices can be rescinded.
Several members of the audience were given a chance to address the board before the workshop. One teacher said that if class sizes significantly increase he may consider quitting his job.
“This isn’t what I signed up for,” he said. “I would consider leaving teaching.”
Additional information about the district’s budget can be found on Newark Unified’s NEW Web site (link). From the home page click the “Budget Crisis” icon near the top. There also are a few avenues in which parents, teachers or community members can voice their concerns or make suggestions about how to solve the impending issues. Those options are available on the Web site.