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LA Public High Schools Struggle To Avoid Layoffs By Cutting Budgets

Sarah Sax |
April 7, 2012 | 5:39 p.m. PDT



(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons).
(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons).
Public high schools in the greater Los Angeles area are aiming to cut millions of dollars by June in a continuous effort to handle the fourth consecutive year of budget cut pink slips.

“We’re trying to reduce about $2 million from our budget overall,” said Debra Washington, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) assistant superintendent for human resources. 

In Washington’s district, ten pink slips were handed to faculty members on March 15, but the educators will not know whether they will be let go until June when the official budget is announced.

The state is providing “constantly evolving numbers,” which affects the number of positions the school district must eliminate, said Ben Allen, SMMUSD vice president.  

The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education is providing its principals with the option to let go certified educators or rearrange department structures to accommodate California’s weak financial state, announced board members at their March 1 meeting.  

SMMUSD is shifting its efforts to cut spending in order to keep its faculty. 


The Palos Verdes Peninsula School District (PVPUSD) is faced with a similar dilemma, having to raise funds or nix certain programming.

The district's Save Our Teachers Now campaign began in 2008 to prevent 59 faculty members from losing their jobs.  

The first year, PVPUSD aimed to raise a total of $1.2 million to Save Our Teachers Now, reported the Daily Breeze.  

This year, the goal is to raise $2.7 million before June, said Palos Verdes High School principal Nick Stephany. 

“Everyone rallied behind the idea of saving our teachers,” he said. 

Despite the campaign’s positive efforts, the uncertainty of reaching the $1.2 million in 2008 caused some teachers, like Palos Verdes High School’s Chris Wilson, to feel “a rollercoaster of emotions.” 

The first year of pink slips was a year of new experiences for Wilson.  He was a newlywed, a new teacher at the school and a new member of the peninsula community.

“I had [my wife] who was basically looking to me for financial support,” said Wilson, which “added a little fuel to the fire.” 

The shaky adjustment to his new lifestyle got him frazzled. 

“The pink slip was the icing on the cake,” he said. 

Wilson further explained that the combination of each of those factors hindered his ability to wholeheartedly succeed at his job. 

“In terms of emotional stability, I was nowhere near ready to teach effectively as I do today,” said Wilson. 

By now, Wilson is a pink slip veteran, having received four since his first year on the Palos Verdes High School staff.  His “thanks” is directed to the community’s support.

With community support, “by default, you’re going to see kids that thrive in academic settings that are exceptionally competitive,” said Wilson. 

But not every teacher like Wilson, or school district like PVPUSD, has equivalent fiscal community support.

SMMUSD is struggling to cut down its job positions to avoid continued financial problems for the 2013-2014 school year.

“We’re trying our best to maintain programs and treat teachers with respect, but also to keep our budget in a place,” said Allen.

The positions from those who retire or leave the school district are not refilled, Allen said, “You know, it’s just attrition.” 


The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) hosted the ONE campaign, which encouraged community members in 2011 to donate an additional $365 to their regular contributions in order to save jobs. 

“It’s difficult to keep staff when budgets are cut,” said Chuck Kloes, Beverly Hills High School assistant principal.


BHUSD, however, is a Basic Aid District. Meaning, the property tax revenue exceeds California’s revenue limit, enabling BHUSD to keep the extra revenue.

California does not give Basic Aid District schools the allocated $120 per student, said EdSource.  

To deal with the state’s financial crisis, Kloes said Beverly Hills High School is “increasing class size,” reducing its staff by a “hiring freeze” and raising funds.  

“Programs are paired down,” he said.  “Parents have to fundraise to keep priority programs.” 

Santa Monica-Malibu, Beverly Hills, and Palos Verdes Peninsula school districts have all targeted families and community members for financial support and have been successful at achieving their monetary goals.  

Stephany has implemented one tactic that proved to be helpful at Palos Verdes High School.

“Prioritize the importance of the different programs and keep [the cuts] away from the classroom as much as possible,” he said.  





Reach contributor Sarah Sax here.



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