Moraga Schools Superintendent Bruce Burns and Principal Deborah Roden met with parents and community members at Camino Pablo elementary Tuesday night, updating everyone on our current budgetary situation and discussing ways parents can help out the schools.
Although the state legislature has approved cuts sure to impact the schools, they have yet to decide if voters will have a say in the matter - continuing taxes that would directly benefit the schools. The deadline for a June 7 ballot measure has come and gone. The deadline for a June 14 ballot measure is approaching -- typically, there are 88 days before an election. And the district must define its budget by June 30, per Education Code.
Schools in all districts have been deeply impacted by years of cuts, but the Moraga School District has done a good job keeping the cuts “as far away from the class room as possible,” Burns said Tuesday. The future budgetary picture, he said, is blurry.
So far, the school district has handed out pink slips to Physical Education teachers and temporary certificated staff – teachers on temporary contracts.
Burns said the district is trying to come up with a solution that doesn’t impact the children. Teachers are taking furlough days, receiving no professional development and paying a portion of their own health benefits. They have also not received salary increases, beyond the negotiated step and column increases that occur automatically. The district governing board is deficit spending, and planning to do so again next year. Next year is a different story, Burns said, with cuts impacting students directly.
Noticeable lapses are already becoming apparent, according to Burns. The district's technology budget has already been slashed, with the usual rotation of upgrades halted in place. At Los Perales, students use old style CRT monitors, while other schools had received flatscreen monitors made available prior to the budget cuts. Kindergartners and first graders don’t receive music instruction from a certificated music specialist anymore.
Next year, PE may not be taught by a teacher trained specifically to teach PE. In addition, the libraries may be open just two and a half days a week, down from four days this year – an already truncated schedule. For a full list of cuts the district has made over the past few years, .
Burns said that three plans are established for the district, which will make for an eventful summer.
- Under Plan A, the district loses $19 per student and will tap reserves to cover this loss. Plan A assumes no further cuts to state funding and that tax extensions are approved in June.
- Under Plan B, the district loses about $350 per student and will tap 1/3 of its reserves to cover this loss. As a result of deficit spending, no further cuts will occur to Moraga’s elementary staff and programs. Plan B assumes no further cuts to state funding, but the tax extensions to do not pass.
- Under Plan C, the district loses about $650 per student. Besides tapping 1/3 of the district’s reserves, the district will also cut $350,000 worth of staff and programs. Plan C assumes that tax extensions do not pass and Proposition 98 – which guarantees minimum funding for public schools – is suspended.
The district is planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Burns and Camino Pablo principal Deborah Roden emphasized the value of private funding to offset these continuing losses of state funding. But Burns also noted, “we are in maintenance mode, which is almost unheard of in Moraga. When you move away from the columns, graphs and data, the kids are our focus.”
Asked what the community can do, Burns and Roden supplied a list of phone numbers and email addresses to contact to urge the legislature to move forward with the budget. In addition, they provided a link to create an automatic letter urging timely action from our legislators.