Long Beach Unified prepares to send out 621 preliminary layoff notices to teachers

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Administrators at the Long Beach Unified School District say proposed budget cuts are likely to force the district in the next month to send out more than 600 Reduction In Force notices to employees with teaching credentials.

If the proposed layoffs are made final by summer, the ensuing teacher cuts would mean a minimum class size increase of five students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades. The increase would lead to 30-students classes in those grades. Classes in grades sixth through 12th grade would increase by two students to 34 students per class.

“I don’t find a dour mood at all but I expect that to change when we, by Feb. 15 when we announce the number of RIF notices that we’re going to have to send,” says Long Beach Unified school board member Jon Meyer.

The school board meets Tuesday to discuss a long list of proposed cuts that includes the layoff of 621 employees, most of them classroom teachers. Librarians, nurses, school psychologists, counselors, and security personnel are also on the proposed layoff list. Meyer says the cuts would help close an expected $60 million funding gap.

“These are devastating cuts and they’re on top of 3-4 years of cuts,” says Joe Boyd, executive director of Teachers Association of Long Beach, the district’s teachers union.

For the current year, his members have accepted unpaid days to help the district close it’s funding gap and cut the number of layoffs.

“We’re caught in a bind because by law we need to notify our good folks, our teachers, by March 15 of possible layoffs yet we don’t negotiate with our union until summertime. Whereby we hope we can get some concessions to try to save teaching jobs,” Meyer says.

At Los Angeles Unified proposed budget cuts in recent years have led to battles of rhetoric between teachers union leaders and top school district administrators. Boyd says that’s not the case at Long Beach Unified.

“Even when we disagree we try to work hard to get through it. I can’t tell you these aren’t hard issues. We’ve had some pretty strong disagreements on long-term cuts to benefits. Up to now we’ve resolved those issues,” Boyd says.

The school board’s also singled out itself for cuts, proposing $10 million in cuts to the district’s central offices, which would include the personnel division, and the board of education offices. Long Beach Unified's school board is expected to make a final decision on teacher layoff notices at its Feb. 15 meeting.

Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing for a fast-track budget approval by Sacramento lawmakers this year. That’s because Brown wants to place a ballot measure on the statewide ballot to expend California income, sales, and vehicle taxes set to expire this year.

Across the state public school boards are preparing budgets assuming a worst-case scenario, that is, that voters will reject the tax extensions. Even if those funds are approved, many school districts will still have budgets in the red one-time funds from the federal government sent to schools to preserve jobs and stimulate the economy have dried up.