BUSD Proposes List of General Fund Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 28, 2008

The Berkeley Board of Education had its first look Wednesday at Berkeley Unified’s proposed budget reductions in the face of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $4.6 billion in cuts from the state education budget over the next two years. 

Based on the proposed cuts, Berkeley Unified stands to lose approximately $3.7 million in general fund revenue next year. 

According to a presentation by Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland Wed-nesday, the district will need to cut $3.2 million from its unrestricted general fund budget and any programs that receive a general fund contribution, to deal with the lost revenue. 

“We wanted to make sure the cuts did not affect student performance, did not jeopardize student safety and could be legally supported,” she said. “We did not want the cuts to cost the district in the future or jeopardize the purpose of Measure A.” 

Measure A, the school parcel tax that renewed two school measures—Berkeley School Excellence Project (BSEP) and Measure B—won a decisive victory last year, ensuring that the current level of school funding in Berkeley would be extended for 10 more years.  

Cleveland stressed that the recommendations were a preliminary list, which would be reviewed by Superintendent Bill Huyett’s Budget Advisory Committee over the next month. 

The superintendent will take the recommendations of his Budget Advisory Committee to the school board in May, after which the board will adopt the final budget on or before July 1. 

The district’s list of recommendations includes a one-time freezing of vacant positions ($100,000), reducing the amount of general funds needed to fund release periods ($140,000)—this supports the district’s compliance with PE time requirements—and reducing general fund contribution to food services ($150,000), special education ($500,000) and transportation of its students ($200,000). 

Some school board members ex-pressed concern about the proposed cuts to special education. 

The district also recommended reducing some certificated and classified employee positions—which amounted to $727,680—from the general fund. 

Berkeley Unified sent out 55 potential layoff notices to teachers and counselors two weeks ago to prepare for the governor’s proposed cuts. 

According to Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) President Cathy Campbell, 10 counselors at Berkeley High School received pink slips, including the only two college counselors at the school.  

Berkeley Technology Academy saw one teacher receive a pink slip. 

Among the three middle schools, Willard was the worst hit, with five classroom teachers, one art teacher and one counselor receiving potential layoff notices. 

Longfellow Middle School saw one of its teachers and both counselors receive potential layoff notices. One counselor at King Middle School received a possible layoff notice. 

“Berkeley Unified recently hired three districtwide math coaches,” said Campbell. “One got a layoff notice; the other two were on a temporary contract and were released. It’s really unfortunate, especially because our area of greatest weakness in state testing is math. It’s an area of need.” 

In the elementary schools, potential layoff notices were also received by teachers at Malcolm X (four), Emerson (three), LeConte (three), Oxford (five), Cragmont (one), Washington (four), Jefferson (three), Thousand Oaks (one), Rosa Parks (one). 

Four classroom teachers and one art teacher at Berkeley Arts Magnet received pink slips. 

The district will be sending out final layoff notices on May 15, as required by state law. 

BFT will be organizing a community rally to protest the governor’s proposed cuts in front of the district headquarters at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Wednesday, April 9, at 5 p.m.  

Teachers who received pink slips are expected to speak at the event along with district employees and parents.