In a school district that has lost more than $9 million in state funds over the course of two years, Substitute Superintendent Al Johnson said the next budget’s proposed cuts are already down to the bone—and about to dig into the marrow.
“We’re fighting for our lives here,” Johnson said.
with the district’s yearly cost of paying for charter school tuitions and more—$13.5 million—and the situation at Woodland Hills becomes clear. The school board is examining programs, transportation and jobs line by line in an effort to cut $2.4 million to balance the proposed budget by June 30—the final state deadline.
Johnson is filling in for Superintendent Walter Calinger,
While the board previously discussed the , that proposal is now off of the table, which is why members are now scouring to make reductions elsewhere.
Johnson said they couldn’t humanistically let small children walk in ice and snow.
“We are going to eliminate some runs and consolidate some runs,” he said. “We may have a larger bus that is completely full.”
A plan to eliminate kindergarten programs also was discussed, but that option is no longer included in the current proposed budget. But the cuts will come down elsewhere, Johnson said. Reductions in transportation also could be made at the local charter schools, along with certain programs that are being looked at by each school.
Foreign language programs may be cut or reduced, while physical plant, maintenance and custodial workers could lose their jobs or have their hours reduced. Overtime will be strictly limited and furloughs for teachers, administrators and support staff also could come into the final budget. Classes could be combined to consolidate as well.
“We are discussing all of these things right now,” Johnson said. “Even if all of these cuts amount to $2.4 million, we have to be cautious because we’d have no reserve left. I can’t go into the next school year without that.”
If cuts are made and a reserve is still not in place for the district, Johnson said the board may be asked to vote on a small tax increase that would amount to less than a mill or so.
“We’re trying not to do that,” he said. “It’s been four years with no increase and we want to make it five.”
Johnson said the financial situation cannot be credited to mismanagement by the school board or administrators, but rather the one-two punch of Corbett’s cuts to education across the state paired with charter school costs.
Johnson thinks it’s time for charter school reform at the state level to take the burden off of the public schools.
“We’re just not able to manage both of these at the same time,” he said. “It’s not equitable. If it was, we could work with that.”
Johnson said that on the up side, the teachers have reached a contract agreement and he hopes to achieve the same with support staff contracts as well very soon. He said it’d be a morale boost for the whole district.
In addition, he said the board is working hard to approve a budget well before the June 30 deadline to decrease anxieties among parents, teachers, district workers and Woodland Hills families.
“We are going line by line,” he said. “It’s draining—but we owe it to the taxpayers.”
What do you think about the budget situation that Woodland Hills faces? Tell us in the comments.