Educators worry about forced cuts

The Glendale Unified School District could lose an additional $25.1 million over the next three years if legislators approve Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s worst-case proposals for solving the state’s growing deficit, administrators told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

The drop in revenues would be on top of the projected $25.4-million deficit by 2012 that the district has already been working to close, officials said.

Chief Business and Financial Officer Eva Rae Lueck broke the news to trustees Tuesday night as early special election returns showed all five of the budget-related measures failing.

A reduction of that size to public schools would be damaging, Supt. Michael Escalante said.

“I don’t see how anybody could responsibly force us to do this,” Escalante said. “This is going to hurt kids like nobody has ever seen.”

The impact on schools would be much less if the propositions were passed, Lueck said.

Lueck’s projections came as the board reviewed a three-year budget plan that would make up for a series of current state reductions using federal stimulus dollars and reshuffling existing funds.

Those maneuvers would give administrators an extra $23.6 million, enough to allow the district to qualify as being solvent according to state reporting requirements, but short of covering for the projected $25.4-million deficit by 2012, Lueck said.

Although the district would still fall short of overcoming that projection, the state will accept the draft budget since the district’s deficit will occur in three years, Lueck said.

The plan involved cutting the district’s contribution to maintenance funds over three years, a move that would free up $12.6 million.

It would also utilize $10.9 million in allocated federal stimulus funds.

“We’ve placed the stimulus dollars in the budget so it makes it look a lot better,” Escalante said. “Those aren’t ongoing dollars. Those are dollars that just will be there in order to soften our landing, but sooner or later we will need to make adjustments that are equal to our ongoing income, not our one-time income.”

The draft budget did not account for the results of Tuesday’s special election, which could dramatically impact schools, Lueck said.

Health insurance and utilities costs are also expected to rise, officials said.

Lueck proposed a series of options for combating additional program cuts.

Officials could increase class sizes, thereby slashing teacher positions, or reduce the number of librarians, counselors, physical education teachers and administrators at schools, Lueck said.

Other options might include cutting off bus transportation to Clark Magnet High School, renegotiating employee health insurance coverage plans to institute a cap on district payments, reducing athletics or eliminating summer school programs.

None of those options has been adopted, but they have been taken by other school districts and might prove useful to Glendale Unified, Lueck said.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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