By Rick La Plante, New Haven Schools Director of Parent and Community Relations
The 2011-12 school year will be shorter and class sizes will be larger in the New Haven Unified School District, but despite being forced by the state to make yet another round of budget cuts, the District hopes to be able to mitigate some of the reductions, Superintendent Kari McVeigh said today.
The District plans to fund some – but not all – of the stipends paid to coaches and advisers for after-school activities and plans to retain the media specialists who staff school libraries, but without all previous support positions, Ms. McVeigh said.
Because districts are being warned not to bring back programs or positions until the state budget is ratified, “we can only plan conditionally to restore programs and positions,” the Superintendent explained, as she outlined the proposed 2011-12 budget that will be formally presented to the Board of Education next Tuesday. The Board will vote on the spending plan June 21.
“Our conditional budget recommendation will take the approach of trying to provide as much critical mission relief across and within the system as possible,” Ms. McVeigh said. “To that end, no previously cut program will be fully restored with this proposed budget. However, as many as possible previously cut or reduced programs will receive a level of relief that will allow them to move forward.”
Under the conditional budget, about 20 teachers who have received layoff notices could be rehired, Ms. McVeigh said, and that number could go up due to retirements and other attrition, but the Superintendent emphasized that none of the teachers who have been laid off could be formally rehired until the state acts.
“If this looks like good news, it’s only because of how bad the news has been for the past several months and because of how deep we had to cut as we planned for 2011-12,” Ms. McVeigh said. “It’s important to realize that next year’s budget is still about $6 million less than it was last year and that it is $15 million less than it was just three years ago.
“In other words, in a district of more than 13,000 students, the state has taken away about $1,200 from every one of our children’s education.”
Pending ratification of a tentative agreement with the New Haven Teachers Association, the instructional year will be reduced from 180 days to 175 days and all employees will take one additional furlough day. A similar agreement was being discussed today with the California School Employees Association, and the New Haven Administrators Association also has agreed to the plan.
“It’s important for our community to understand that our students will receive five fewer days of instruction next year, and that our teachers, classified employees and administrators will all be sharing in the sacrifice by taking home smaller paychecks, because they will be working a total of six fewer days,” Superintendent McVeigh said.
Class sizes will increase in some elementary grades, but the increase will not be as severe as was planned. Kindergarten, where the student-to-teacher ratio currently is 20-to-1, will increase to 25-to-1. First and second grades will remain at 25-to-1. Third grade, currently staffed at 25-to-1, will increase to 30-to-1.
The Board of Education earlier authorized increasing all K-3 classes to 30-to-1 and reducing the workyear by up to nine days, as part of a total of $10.4 million in reductions forced upon the District in adopting interim budgets in December and March. After receiving details about the annual state budget revision announced by Gov. Brown in May, the District is planning for about $6.1 million in reductions.
“The governor’s May revise, though an improvement to the January budget proposal, does not change the fact that schools continue to be under-resourced, and the uncertainty of funding remains high,” Chief Business Officer Akur Varadarajan said. He also emphasized the conditional nature of the District’s budget proposal, noting that “if the Legislature does not pass the (state) budget as proposed and if the $4.3 million in revenue does not materialize, the District must institute all the cuts that were proposed.”
The proposed budget also provides for $200,000 of the approximately $360,000 that the District pays in stipends to coaches and advisors for athletics and activities, such as band and color guard, forensics, choir and drama. The New Haven Boosters Association, in conjunction with the New Haven Schools Foundation, currently is involved in a fund-raising drive for these co-curricular and extra-curricular programs, which combined with a campaign spearheaded by students at James Logan High School, has raised more than $25,000 during the past three weeks.
The District also will retain four positions for media specialists/librarians at Logan and Conley-Caraballo High School and at Alvarado and Cesar Chavez middle schools. Each of the District’s seven elementary schools will have a part-time assistant principal.
“The burden on our elementary principals, some of whom have more than 900 students on campus, was simply too great,” Superintendent McVeigh said.
The conditional budget also includes a minimum amount of funding for adult education – which was to be eliminated completely – allowing the program to continue on a limited basis with federal money.
The District, forced to eliminate transportation for high school students two years ago and for elementary school students this year, still will have to eliminate middle school transportation in 2011-12, Ms. McVeigh said. The middle schools will have 1.5 assistant principals each, instead of two, and the high schools will lose one administrator each. Four counseling positions, a psychologist and a classified management position also were eliminated; the print shop still will be closed; and there still will be reductions in maintenance and technology.