GLENDALE — The dismal outcome of Tuesday’s special election could result in dramatic funding cuts to education that would jeopardize recent gains in student test scores, state schools chief Jack O’Connell said during a news conference Thursday.
O’Connell was at Marshall Elementary School to release the California Department of Education’s latest report on school test results that showed a continuing rise in student performance since the state began collecting the exam data 10 years ago.
Compared to a year ago, more elementary, middle and high schools meet the state’s performance targets, with the largest gain — 5.7% — happening with middle schools.
The Glendale Unified School District’s overall Academic Performance Index score of 817 is above the state’s target of 800 out of 1,000, and the report released by O’Connell showed that district schools were outperforming others throughout the state.
Eight Glendale Unified schools ranked among the top 10% of schools, the state’s highest comparative category, and 17 out of 29 schools ranked in the 80th percentile or higher.
But gains here and elsewhere are in danger of being wiped out because of up to an additional $1.6 billion in cuts that schools might have to make before the end of June if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget solutions are enacted, O’Connell said.
Schwarzenegger’s proposed reductions to education, which total $6.3 billion over two years, could be “horrific” for schools, he said.
More teachers will be laid off, increasing class sizes and compounding the job cuts that educators have already made, he said.
That formula left O’Connell and local educators worried that test scores could change course from their recent climb.
“I am gravely concerned,” O’Connell said.
The most dramatic impact could come from school districts opting to trim away their professional development programs for teachers, which focus on developing dynamic teaching methods and collaboration between instructors, Glendale Unified Supt. Michael Escalante said.
District officials are considering that option after having already trimmed administrative support staff for teachers from more than 25 positions to just eight.
The district may shrink its teacher specialist staff, which helps advise teachers on school campuses, from six positions to just two, Escalante said.
“As you tear away the amount of support [for professional development] how are you going to get better at what you do?” he said.
Glendale Unified had already been planning to make up for a $25.4-million shortfall by 2012, but the additional cuts could cost the district another $25.1 million over the next three years.
Because 85% of the district’s $186-million budget is allocated for employee salary and benefit costs, the majority of the cuts will likely affect classrooms through teacher layoffs, Board of Education President Mary Boger said.
Class sizes could rise by at least two students in kindergarten through third grade, a change that will leave children with less personal attention, Boger said.
Still, she hoped that teachers, parents and administrators would band together to keep student achievement on track, she said.
“I don’t think there is any teacher in this district who will give up that goal,” she said.