District deadline too early

May 08, 2010

With the May 15 deadline approaching for school districts to submit their formal list of teacher layoffs, the tension, frustration and protests have been mounting regarding figures that, by all accounts, appear to be unnecessarily inflated.

In Glendale, the initial batch of pink slips sent out numbered 105; in Burbank, it was 85. But as in previous times of belt tightening, the final number of teachers who will end up actually being laid off will likely be far smaller.

That’s because district administrators are held to state-imposed deadlines that force school boards as early as March to err on the conservative side when deciding how many teachers they might have to lay off.


The arbitrary March 15 deadline does nothing but add unnecessary sticker shock to the price of decreased state education funding, and create a panicked sense of urgency among community stakeholders.

School districts are entirely dependent on Sacramento for their livelihood, and so as the state budget goes, so do their own.

But since March 15 often falls well before state lawmakers have come up with any firm budget figures, school districts must often make ultra-conservative spending plans so they’re not caught flat-footed later in the year.

And because this is California, is it any wonder that Glendale and Burbank took a high shot in the dark?

Problem is, the high pink slip numbers whack the public bee hive at a time when stakeholders would be better served figuring out innovative budget solutions — without having to swat away all the public relations stingers.

That’s why Sacramento would better serve everyone by passing Sen. Bob Huff’s (R-Diamond Bar) bill, which would move the March 15 deadline for doomsday projections to a later date, when budget figures are more firm and administrators can make more accurate — and less provocative — layoff forecasts.

This week alone, Glendale Unified officials said the number of teachers who may now actually be laid off would be closer to about 71.

While that figure surely provides little respite for those on the chopping block, it’s a far cry from 105, and could still come down.

Money is money, and in the end, school districts will have to shed jobs regardless of deadlines if the pot shrinks, but until we know for certain what those figures are, Capitol Hill could save communities a whole lot of hurried protesting and inflamed tensions by doing away with deadlines that force stakeholders into early rounds of battle.

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