Saturday, February 21, 2009

Budget cuts

The state just passed a budget lowering per-pupil spending from $8,784 to $8,404 over the next two years. According to Education Week, California already ranks 47th in the nation on per-pupil spending. What do you think of this?

Learn more about the budget cuts and what you can do to speak up about them by clicking here (Parents for Public School Budget Cuts page).

54 comments:

  1. I hate to be a single-issue voter, but ... Recall every legislator who approved this deal. This is inexcusable.

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  2. Hm, seems to me the ones who didn't vote for this were even worse as they were hoping to take MORE from education. Was there anyone who took a principled stand and voted against it because the cuts were too great? I'd really like to know.

    In any case, it's going to be too late for a lot of us. I and about 500 other SFUSD teachers will be getting layoff notices come March 15, that's now a given. The only question for us is whether or not the district can find the funds to rescind the notices, a question that may not be answered for months.

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  3. I'm sorry you are getting laid off. It really is disgusting.

    I guess this also means class sizes are going up?

    Could the rainy day fund be used in this case?

    This type of thing is the real reason I'm considering privates.

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  4. It's true that we will be voting on Tuesday night (2/24) to issue layoff notices to over 500 teachers and other certificated staff. But I'm very hopeful that with a combination of reserves and Rainy Day Fund money (not to mention Federal stimulus money), we will be able to rescind a lot of those layoffs.

    District staff are still crunching the numbers so I don't have a lot of specifics on what the budget deal means for us. But what I can definitely tell you is that this budget deal is not much different from what staff has been planning for over the past few months.

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  5. If SFUSD is now looking at sending 500 letters to teachers, that's twice as many as Superintendent Garcia told the Chronicle they were planning to send. I'd call that a significant change.

    This is an enormous equity issue, too: schools in underserved communities tend to have teachers with less seniority. So those schools (and teachers) will suffer from the uncertainty, and the situation leads to increased staff turnover (which is already way too high). I speak from experience here: even when you are 99.997% certain that all layoffs will be rescinded, it is not a very comforting situation. And teachers are reminded of it every time they open their wallets to equip their classrooms (again, something that the teachers at underserved schools are needing to do more often).

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  6. Anon @ 9:33 - you'll get no argument from me on many of your points. It's a horrible position for all of us to be put in, and like you I am crossing my fingers that most of these layoff notices can be rescinded.

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  7. Ultimately though, the issue is simple: If SFUSD truly is committed to the Balanced Scorecards, its current (equity-focused) five year plan, and closing the opportunity gap this annual practice has to stop. And not all the blame can go on state/federal funding, the nuts and bolts of asking for Rainy Day money, etc. - there are other economies or models that SFUSD could take to at least lessen the number of layoff notices/eventual layoffs.

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  8. 7:38, can you share with us what some of these economies are?

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  9. I am crossing my fingers that most of these layoff notices can be rescinded.

    So what you're saying is that it's already known that some of the layoffs are going to be permanent? That is anything but reassuring.

    I'd also like to point out that it's the newest teachers, most likely to be trained in up-to-date practices, that get the axe. And yes, it is an equity issue as 9:33 pointed out. How can you expect anyone to want to choose teaching as a career when it's a given that you're going to face the threat of being laid of every year for at least the first several years you teach? I went into teaching as a second career in part because I thought there was some degree of job safety. I guess the joke is on me, but I'm certainly not laughing.

    And the sad truth is that the teachers with seniority, the ones who are safe, will do very little to support the rest of us. But I also understand why this is; the constant cutbacks in education have all teachers spread very thin, with little left over for concerns outside our immediate classrooms.

    8:51, funding for class size reductions for K-3 classes have been preserved, but classes may still go from 20 to 22 students. The real impact will be felt in 4-12 classes. 4th and 5th grade teachers will likely see their classes jump to 30+ students, unless they are lucky enough to teach in a school with a PTA that raises enough money to pay for additional staff. Again, an equity issue. And a big disincentive to teach 4-5 classes.

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  10. Private/parochial schools that were facing reduced enrollments because of the econony must be saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you" to the state.
    How can I sign up my kid for kindergarten at a public school if I have no assurances that the class size is going to balloon or, in a worst-case scenario, if the school will even be open in a year or two?
    Unbelievable! But being a Sacto lawmaker means never having to think about the future ... except if it's your own political future. Turn out the bums!

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  11. The flip side is that there are probably areas of savings that the District can achieved without necessarily having to impact the classroom.

    Is there a need for so many Assistant Superintendants, Associate Superinterndants, Vice Superintendants or whatever they are called that assist Garcia, who makes a pretty good penny himself. I'm sure he also gets monthly stipends, car service etc.

    Rachel and Board -- you guys looking into this? I know, to stay competitive, you've got to offer the Superintendants all these perks, but honestly, given the State of our Country, can we continue to live like this?

    Secondly, there are some very very inefficient utilization of facilities and programs. I see bilingual programs that are seriously underenrolled and yet principals are allowed to maintain these programs for several years before the are "forced" to shut them down. Oh, yes, of course families will be impacted. But does it makes sense to have so many bilingual programs spread out across so many schools instead of combining them and having some schools specialized in that sort of program and excel at it. Yes, yes, schools are little communities etc, but at what expense? So that the 4th, 5th grade Gen Ed classes get screwed over with 35 plus kids, and yet maintain underenrolled programs that result in combining grades?

    Are bilingual kids/ESL entitled to more than those that don't have those needs? Esp when money IS scarce. Sure if we can print money like the feds, we can offer unlimited everything. (pay the price later, not us, but our kids...)

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  12. "Are bilingual kids/ESL entitled to more than those that don't have those needs? "

    Yes, because they need more help.

    It amazes me how selfish and mean and racist some people are.

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  13. I don't think that the poster at 3:17 is being racist or mean. They bring up several valid points. What is racist about combining classes that are underenrolled to spare the rest of our children classes of 35+? And yes, I think the district should be looking to first eliminate some of the bureaucracy before taking it out of the the hides of our kids. What about the suggestions to turn bilingual/ESL programs into immersion programs? At least we wouldn't have costly programs that only benefit a few. Overreacting just because someone brings up some legitimate questions in the face of the budget crisis only hinders those that offer real solutions.

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  14. Dear board

    Please consider a rational easy assignment system and reduce the resources waisted 'explaining" and managing the current system. Or merge w another district such as daly city or ssf and scale admin. That could open up lots more choice

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  15. I know this doesn't relate to this particular post at all, but I needed to write you. Okay, I'm so thankful I stumbled upon your blog, but am so overwhelmed at the research that goes into getting your child a great education in SF. We will be moving from the midwest to SF next June with a child starting first grade that August/September. We will not have CA residency until June. We would have missed the entire application process. What on earth do we do?

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  16. 7:23, get in touch with Parents for Public Schools right away -- www.ppssf.org -- they'll give immediate guidance. Don't panic!

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  17. 3:17 here, thank you 6:04. My comments were not meant to be racist or mean. But you see how our society has turned into where any attempt to try to resolve a situation rationally always get turned into "how racist or mean or selfish some people are".

    We should not assume intentions of others because we are not inside another person's brain!

    Look at the facts rationally. Stop over reacting.

    How does a bilingual ESL kid need more than a poor black kid or poor Asian or poor white kid born in the projects? Who is to say who needs more? Just like the foreclosure issue - who is more needy, the one who overpaid and now in over there head, the one who didn't overpay but took out home equity loans and spent all the money, or the renter who rented all these years and is finally looking forward to buying something but well, can't because the gov't has decided not to help this person with good credit but little down payment but instead help the two aforementioned cases.

    Life is complicated. And every race has racists. Its not limited to any one group. Get over it. Travel to other countries.

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  18. @9:02 - YES, I can!

    1. Deal with Nutrition Services - get it computerized and sending billing letters to students who need to pay. Run a massive campaign to make sure that all free lunch applications come in so that schools/SFUSD can apply for full funding (everyone gets free lunch) at high-poverty schools.

    2. Consultants for PD - rather than first looking outside SFUSD, cultivate teacher leaders to share practices. Get the Prop A master teacher program up and running robustly.

    3. Cuts to administrative salaries.

    4. Streamline bus routes.

    Teachers ARE a huge line-item, but they're also the frontline troops. And they're not really expendable.

    @9:38 - Don't forget that some schools have PTAs that raise money to reduce class sizes through 5th. Again, it's a huge equity issue.

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  19. Oh me again. I'm not just picking on bilingual ESL programs (which apply to Cantonese, Tagalog and Spanish speakers...). There are other programs that probably fall in the same category.

    And first off, I would look at cutting alot of spending at the District administrative level. Are the upper level managers all still attending conferences? Or could one manager go and bring back the information. Do these top level administrators get "stipends" for who knows what (just for being a top level administrator)?

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  20. 9:26pm those are great ideas. But I think the School District knows that you can mobilize the public the most when you show the direct impact to kids, which means removing the teachers and reducing class sizes, letting facilities deteriorate etc.
    Sure personnel expense is huge and its easy to get the budget balanced by laying off teachers, but its really a cop out.
    The public should be demanding all the changes you mention, and then go march on Sacramento.
    I'm not falling for the blind mantra that education needs more money, throw more money this way, our kids need it, spending per pupil this or that. Look at Utah spending per pupil.

    interesting comment re the PD and using consultants. Personally, I think public school districts (K through Community Colleges) are just a farm for consultants to milk. The administrators etc retire then go work as consultants or else its the network connections at conferences, and so consultants are hired. Its way way too easy to hire consultants.

    Rachel -- hope you are seeing 9:26's comments. And letting the BOE know too. The BOE should be demanding efficiencies at every level -- combining ESL/Bilingual programs, combining Special Ed programs -- and with every combination, demand excellence in specializiation. Milk the economies of scale. yes - kids are not widgets and can't be treated as such, but clearly there must be a better way.

    When Education makes up over 50 percent of the State budget, and the deficit is 42 billion and counting, something has got to give. Don't tell me education should not get any cuts unless it is operating as efficiently as can be and there is NO MORE FAT at any layer.

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  21. Hi everyone - I am monitoring this thread and there are lots of good suggestions, some of which the Board is already on and some which we can discuss.

    Rachel

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  22. I am 9:26, and I want to point out that it took me all of 30 seconds to generate a list of areas that could potentially lead to fewer teacher layoffs. Of course this means that I didn't do due diligence on their feasibility. Still, if I can do it in thirty seconds, I have to believe the district can come up with some other solutions that would ameliorate layoffs.

    I'd also like to know how SFUSD imagines this affecting the high-priority staffing schools. These schools get certain hiring privileges since they're traditionally hard to staff, and since their teachers are low-seniority they will be schools disproportionately affected by layoff notices. Since those notices will cause teachers to consider leaving SFUSD, I think the high-priority staffing is being entirely undermined.

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  23. The district had planned to adopt a new language arts curriculum next year, something that could definitely be postponed. Rachel (or anyone) do you know if this has been put on hold? If not, that would be another big expense to consider as it requires lots of teacher training in addition to the materials themselves.

    6:12, I agree, but then I think the entire teaching profession is being undermined. What kind of professional would choose to go into a career that threatens you with being laid off every year for the first 3 or 4 years? I'm not at a high-priority school, yet there are still at least three teachers out of a staff of about 12 that will get notices this year. 25% turnover is less than what many schools will face, but still much too high.

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  24. 6:29 - I absolutely agree with you. I think several schools will end up with over half the staff layoff-lettered, though. And these schools will be the ones that have high staff turnover and those in under-served communities. These are the schools where we often talk about low parent involvement - but why should parents get involved when any connections made may only last one school year? And if high-priority staffing is really bringing in educators who want to work in high-need schools, is laying these few people off and potentially replacing them with involuntary transfers the best idea?

    I'm pretty sure that the state has indicated schools do not need to upgrade their ELA curricula to whatever's adopted this cycle just yet as part of the no-audit thing they've been talking about.

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  25. I think it's time that as a community we start getting creative with the way we fund our schools. There are so many middle class families here in SF that would be more than happy to pay partial tuition in order to get into their neighborhood school. I think it's a shame not to at least consider that as an option. Before people start blasting me on here about how I am rich and want to buy my way into a school- I am just recognizing the reality of the situation. Yes, not every school is considered "desirable", but if there was suddenly more funds available to the school system don't you think that the entire network would benefit? More money for arts and sports programs and for retaining and attracting valuable teachers. With more funds and greater family involvement maybe we could just have a city where every school was a good choice.

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  26. 12:43

    you may not "buy" your way into a public school.

    The whole idea is entirely repugnant.

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  27. What you call "creative" is, in fact, illegal, THANK GOD.

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  28. Wow, that private school process thread has over 1000 posts and counting, and this one only has 27. I guess instead of getting angry, parents are just going for privates. Too bad, there is (or seemed to be) so much enthusiasm for publics on this blog.

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  29. The private school thread you are referring to was opened on january 11th ...

    and it is mostly back and forth bickering, ain't it?

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  30. I wonder if that private school thread is attracting newcomers to the blog who haven't been here previously, who haven't been in the public school discussion.

    There was an active Bay Area private school discussion list (on www.baprivateschools.com) that was closed a few years ago -- it was closed without explanation, but there were teachers being criticized by name, and some private schools being disparaged. I don't know of a discussion list specifically on private school admissions, but this one is now it.

    It's nice that it's in a forum where there are some public school parents/advocates and some posters who are serious applicants to both public and private. That could be an eye-opener to some people in the private school world.

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  31. I just saw the article in the today's Examiner (maybe not the best source) and it indicated that SF schools can qualify for up to 25% of the rainy day fund in years of need. The fund is 100M and the proposed deficit is 24M...so we are there. I know there are tons of other programs in dire straits here in the City (and we would be unlikely to get 25M for schools), but given it is the Sups who decide this, it seems we need to organize and lobby for as much of that money as possible. I am new to this, but am wrong?

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  32. I like the idea on consolidating administration with neighbooring districts. I work in san mateo and having a san fran run system on the northern peninsula would appear to help parents commuting south. I'm guessing those are smaller districts and the sf admin could scale over them nicely

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  33. There are approx over 1000 K-12 school districts in CA (some are HS, some are K-5, etc).

    Is this a crazy quilt of inefficiency? Yes. Say it louder. YES. YES.

    But will it ever be combined. Probably not. Simply because of the politics. The BOE's wouldn't allow for it because many on the BOE (no offense intended toward Rachel) use the BOE for political springboarding to other positions. Sigh.

    And families don't necessarily like their high performing district being somehow merged with "other" districts and somehow the kids and resources getting comingled.

    But anyway, there have been some district that merged (most recently in Sacramento). It made sense with the declining enrollment. I believe 4 districts became one. That was painful. The sad part was they paid off the administrators... yup money out the door. But in the end, the savings are great, by having one payroll staff, one accounting, one purchasing dept, etc.

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  34. Hey Rachel & Others:

    Is the district budget fully available to the public on a line-item basis? Consider "open-sourcing" it for really meaningful public input. The kind of interested citizens we have on this blog and in PPSSF could study it and come up with a lot of good ideas.

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  35. One thing available on the District's website is the meeting agenda for tonight (all 196 pages of it, plus one additional page for the closed session). Looking over the first few pages, I have to say: $105,000 to help principals learn facilitation skills?!

    Also, why does SFUSD need additional contacts for developing programs for non-certified/intern credentialed teachers when they are intending to send layoff notices to teachers with full credentials?

    There is also a statement from the Superintendent on the SFUSD site which specifically mentions class size increases in K as a possibility for next year.

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  36. Also, is SFUSD sending letters to 362 teachers or sending many, many more letters with the intention of being able to lay off 362 teachers?

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  37. I'm curious about the $105k for facilitation skills myself & am planning to sever that item for discussion tonight.

    The 2008-09 budget (461 pages of it) is available here as a PDF:

    http://tinyurl.com/ctpyfa

    Enjoy! ;-)

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  38. Letters to 362 teachers so that will be the max that could be laid off. District sounds like it is doing everything it can to avoid the layoffs.

    It is not so easy to figure out what to cut. Layoff notices have been sent to a lot of administrators at well. But administrators are the people who deal with district wide issues like principal and teacher training (including facilitation training, which doesn't seem so terrible to me), truancy, curriculum development, nutrition, etc. My understanding is this District has much lower administrative costs than most of this size. So it's not so easy to figure out where to cut.

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  39. I hear that some districts on the peninsula are trying to negotiate a pay cut with teachers. Is this on the table in SF?

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  40. I've worked with numerous principals that absolutely NEED help with their "facilitation skills"! Honestly, I've never met one who didn't need it. Maybe they shouldn't, but trust me, they DO. I'm almost certain I'll be getting a layoff notice, but given my experiences in my short time in this district, this is one item I would NOT cut.

    Now I might argue that they shouldn't have been hired in the first place with such a gap in their experience, but it's a little late for that. The principals should, however, be evaluated on these skills. And wouldn't it be nice if teachers also had a say in principals' evaluations? A little of that 360 degree feedback might go a very long way.

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  41. I agree - facilitation and coaching skills should be REQUIRED for principals. However, it strikes me that the Principals' Leadership Institute or some school of education might be able to provide training much more cheaply.

    I'd also like to see the top-level administrators in the District take a voluntary pay cut in solidarity with their staff.

    I asked about the number of letters because if the District sends 362 and they make an error in one, then they only have 361 people who can legally be laid off.

    I've heard the same thing (that SFUSD actually has a small administrative overhead) repeatedly, but I have never understood what their comparison is. Certainly a much smaller district might have more administrators because the tasks stay the same even if it's a smaller population (Special Education, Nutrition, Language Programming, etc. - all of these require special skills). So if they are comparing themselves just to all other California school districts, I don't know that it's a fair comparison. Pretty much, I'd like to see some evidence for the claim.

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  42. My beef is not with the Principals or school staff that come in contact with the raison d'etre for anyone in the school district, the kids/students.

    Its the several layers above -- why does Garcia need to have what 4 or 5 Vice Superintendants or whatever they are called. Then there are the Associate Superintendants, and Assistant Superintendants, and probably another layer below.

    Comparing yourself to other California or even other States' districts is a bunch of hogwash when CA is facing $42 billion dollar gap and probably will grow. Education makes up 50% of the budget if not more. Something's gotta give. Raising taxes/revenues is ok to a point, but then it backfires. People vote with their moving vans. Businesses move out.

    So, the issue is not comparing yourself to others and saying, wow we have low administrative costs for a district of our size blah blah blah. Who gives a fart? That's great. The question should be how can we work smarter, more efficiently. What can we do differently to still deliver high quality results? Some things will suffer so what can we live without. How can we engage more parents to help out? The community?

    Its not easy, but the problem with this country is exactly everyone is comparing themselves to everyone else -- hey he makes $100 million as CEO, our stock went up by 25% more, so lets see I deserve $150 million bonus. Etc etc

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  43. My beef is not with the Principals or school staff that come in contact with the raison d'etre for anyone in the school district, the kids/students.

    Its the several layers above -- why does Garcia need to have what 4 or 5 Vice Superintendants or whatever they are called. Then there are the Associate Superintendants, and Assistant Superintendants, and probably another layer below.

    Comparing yourself to other California or even other States' districts is a bunch of hogwash when CA is facing $42 billion dollar gap and probably will grow. Education makes up 50% of the budget if not more. Something's gotta give. Raising taxes/revenues is ok to a point, but then it backfires. People vote with their moving vans. Businesses move out.

    So, the issue is not comparing yourself to others and saying, wow we have low administrative costs for a district of our size blah blah blah. Who gives a fart? That's great. The question should be how can we work smarter, more efficiently. What can we do differently to still deliver high quality results? Some things will suffer so what can we live without. How can we engage more parents to help out? The community?

    Its not easy, but the problem with this country is exactly everyone is comparing themselves to everyone else -- hey he makes $100 million as CEO, our stock went up by 25% more, so lets see I deserve $150 million bonus. Etc etc

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  44. District sounds like it is doing everything it can to avoid the layoffs.

    I believe that to be true. However, the layoff notices trigger the Rainy Day fund, and that's something SFUSD wants. I don't like that they are willing to use their teachers as pawns. I have not seen any major initiatives to cut administrative spending (other than some work on busing). And if the city does not provide SFUSD Rainy Day money (and early at that), then their budget-balancing plan falls on those teachers.

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  45. Ok, so Mayor announced yesterday there is Rainy Day Money to avoid the layoffs.

    Rachel -- I'm glad you check this blog periodically -- I hope you and your fellow BOT will continue to ask the Administration and Garcia for areas to streamline for savings. We should not sit on our laurels just because teachers were not laidoff.

    And its rather annoying that the district uses this layoff thing every year to engender sympathy and what not. I know its not all for that purpose, that labor accounts for a big expense so its the first area to cut that could make an impact, but maybe instead of 362 notices it could have been 181 notices if there were savings realized elsewhere (aka look at the layers of Superintendants and please explain why we need so much, inefficient bus routes, are custodians being utilized efficiently or is there lots of overtime, etc).

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  46. 7:37

    there are still going to be almost 400 layoff notices sent to teachers

    the city is only giving a partial amount of the rainy day fund, half as much as SFUSd was expecting to get

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  47. How on earth is the district going to pay for the increase in students this year? Do more students bring in more money from the state?

    Since all of the kindergarten classes are full or over-full this year, clearly there will have to be more classes next year --where are they going to go? Will closed schools (like Cabrillo) be reopened? how will the district pay for it?

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  48. More students DO bring more funding, and disadvantaged kids bring more than non-disadvantaged kids. Not enough, of course.

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  49. 9:26 AM:

    School districts get money per head based on attendance, so yes more students means more money. Garcia told the Chronicle that K class sizes will not be 20:1 next year, so I assume that's the strategy for dealing with increased enrollment. Given the current situation (200+ teacher layoffs), those could be some pretty big Ks.

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  50. Based on lobbying by the teachers' union, the budget did preserve the mandatory class size reduction for K-3, and there are financial penalties for going over 20 kids per class. So I doubt SFUSD will go too far over 20, because there will be financial disincentives that would offset any resultant savings.

    We should all be pushing our supervisors to increase the amount given to SFUSD from the rainy day fund, to save the remaining teachers' jobs.

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  51. Yes, and lets also ask to have one or two of the Assistant Executive Superintendants removed and save at least 6 teachers jobs. There are so many of these Super Supers around, presumably helping put together our next strategic plan etc.
    Not to say they are not doing good work.
    Maybe they should all take a pay cut and help put some more teachers in the classrooms. That would go a long way to achieving the Strategic Plan, rather than have them sit around and keep refining the Plan!

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  52. I agree that stakeholders should let their Supervisor know how they feel - Ammiano's said he did not intend for the fund to be distributed in this newfangled way Newsom's invented. Still, I think it's time for SFUSD to start coming up with some new ways to cut their budget - ways that don't involve sending new teachers a letter every March 15th.

    As I understand it, if you tell the state you are not reducing class sizes you are not penalized - several South Bay districts have K around 25 - 27 students right now. The penalties apply if you are doing CSR but your class sizes actually end up around 21-22.

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  53. i was told by principal at glen park that 20% cuts across the board next year... she didn't know how it was going to be possible

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