Mountain View Voice

News - March 13, 2009

School layoffs begin as budget hits home

by Casey Weiss

Budget reductions have begun to take their toll on local students, programs and staff, nearly a month after the state Legislature approved over $8 billion in cuts to public education.

Earlier this week the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and the Los Altos and Mountain View Whisman elementary school districts, passed budgets for the remainder of the school year, transferring funds and dipping into reserves as they prepare for millions in cuts through 2010.

The Los Altos district also sent out pink slips to 45 employees, and the high school district decided to mail preliminary notices to its full-time Adult School teachers, warning they could be laid off before the start of the 2009-10 school year.

Among the state budget cuts are more than $1 billion over the next 17 months from special programs, such as arts and English language programs. Locally this means $2 million from the high school district through 2010, mostly in adult education cuts; and $500,000 from LASD, although trustees there already decided to slash over $2 million to prepare for more cutbacks in upcoming years.

But the Mountain View Whisman School District faces the largest cut of all: $2.6 million through 2010. As a revenue limit district, it receives most of its funding from the state, unlike the other two districts which rely on local property taxes for funding.

Administrators say these numbers are still uncertain as they wait for California voters to approve some of the budget decisions in a special election in May. The state will also receive additional funds from the federal stimulus package, but administrators still do not know how much of this funding the local schools will receive.

MVLA pink slips

At their meeting on Monday, high school district trustees voted to send out pink slips for the next school year to all Adult School full-time teachers, putting them on notice that they could be laid off within the year.

The district faces $2 million in reductions over the next 17 months, and approximately $1.3 million of this will come from the Adult School, which offers re-training, English language instruction and also General Education Development (GED) programs for students who have not finished their high school education. Those cuts comprise about 20 percent of the Adult School's budget.

While most districts send out pink slips to let teachers know they will be laid off, the high school district is using pink slips as a preliminary warning that some of the 29 full-time permanent teachers could lose their positions, administrators said. Trustees will not make final cuts until later this spring.

Director Laura Stefanski and district administrators are looking to reduce classes offered in the spring and increase some fees and class sizes. But, she said, "Everything is on the table."

Trustees govern both the high schools and the Adult School, but funding for the two programs comes from different sources. The high schools rely on property taxes, while the state pays for most of the Adult School programs.

Superintendent Barry Groves said the high schools would be spared major cuts if budget proposals are passed by California voters in May. The district currently is transferring funds in order to keep programs running, and administrators will also use money the district did not spend this year.

MV Whisman in bind

The budget cuts leave the Mountain View elementary district short $2.6 million for the next 17 months. The district will not receive money for special programs or $1.8 million of daily attendance money, funds normally given to revenue limit districts for each student attending the schools. And it will not be allotted cost of living adjustments as prices rise for health care and benefits.

The district will rely on its parcel tax, parent donations and reserves to make it through the year, and special programs, such as music and art, will be reduced depending on budgets allotted from the state.

Administrators say there will be no layoffs of full-time teachers this spring. Chief financial officer Craig Goldman said the district has a list of top priorities with core academics, district initiatives and extracurricular activities at the top.

This spring, trustees also must pass a budget for next year, and Goldman said the district will once again rely on reserves. Trustees could also transfer unused money and talk with the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee and Mountain View Educational Foundation about using funding for different programs than before to fill the budget gap.

The district has not yet decided about layoffs for certified staff.

LASD fires 45

Forty-five employees in the Los Altos School District will be let go this spring as the district tries to deal with over $2 million in cuts through the 2010-11 school year, administrators decided last week.

The district, which serves hundreds of Mountain View residents, will make cuts totaling $2.3 million over the next two years, including $500,000 from special programs and $800,000 in one-time cuts. Board members decided on the cost-cutting measures during their March 2 meeting.

Los Altos schools will see $500,000 in reductions through 2010 — significantly less than expected. But, assistant superintendent for business services Randy Kenyon said, the board is now preparing for 2010-11, when the schools could face millions in cuts.

"It's not just a one-year problem," Kenyon said.

The trustees cut employees and budgets in the physical education departments, libraries, science programs and district office staff. The district will transfer money from unused funds and will "restructure" certain programs, such as English language development and summer school, saving the schools a projected half-million dollars.

Administrators said pink slips will be sent out to certificated staff by March 15, and to classified staff by mid-April.

E-mail Casey Weiss at


Posted by James, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm

If this was France they'd be burning tires in the streets, cutting education is just going to bankrupt the future. They should create a local income tax to cover whatever the schools need.

Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Seems your city council would rather spend money studying an unnecessary high speed rail station, as your schools rapidly deteriorate.

Posted by S, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I get some irked when I see the news that public assistance projects get all this funding i.e. food stamps, medicare, etc .. in fact more now than ever 'since these people need the help' but what about the children who in the future, will need the skills, education to continue to fund these government programs? Surely some of the public assistance/government assistance funds can be axed/diverted to our children! I'm tired of this...

Posted by student, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

MS. Gilbert you rock and the school district is wrong to give you a pink slip

Posted by Friend to all teachers, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm

This is very sad. :(

Posted by Mountain View Resident, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Palo Alto resident, the City Council studying high-speed rail is irrelevant. Cities have no authority over school district administration or funding in California.

Posted by Douglas, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm

This can be a positive. A lesson in Economics 101. Learning how to stay within a budget. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When the Recession ends, the school district will be a lean, mean machine, turning out high achieving students within a budget. A model for the rest of the country. Are our students, teachers and administrators up for the challenge? If not, we can bring teachers from foreign countries on H-1B and J-1 visas. As of June 2003, we already had 1,047 guest teachers in California's public schools (according to the National Education Association). California ranks number one in public school teacher salaries, number one in total school expenditures, number 26 in expenditure per student, and 47 in student academic achievement. As an arithmetic teacher might say "This just don't add up!"

Posted by friend, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:10 pm

And an English teacher would say, "This just doesn't add up!"

Posted by Douglas, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

The Mountain View High School robotics team, Spartan Robotics team 971, is heading to a national tournament in Atlanta. As I have always maintained, Silicon Valley originated in Mountain View and no matter what budget our schools have to work with, our students will be up to the challenge! Go team 971!

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