School District Cuts Nearly 10 Percent Of Workforce

Fewer Teachers, Larger Classes Planned For New School Year

by Tiffany Rider, Staff Writer

In response to the lack of a finalized state budget, the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Board of Education approved final layoff notices for 789 certificated employees – about 10 percent of the district’s workforce – on May 10.

The job cuts, which mostly affect teachers without seniority, were approved in an effort to deal with California’s ongoing cuts for public school funding. In the past three years, LBUSD cut more than $200 million from its budget. These latest layoff notices were approved in order to meet the state-mandated deadline of May 15.

According to Chris Eftychiou, public information director for LBUSD, most of the savings from the 789 layoffs come from increases in class sizes next year. With average class sizes increasing by three students to 35 in grades 6 to 12, and by between 5 and 10 students for an average of 30 kids per class for kindergarten through 3rd grade, the school district estimates a cost savings of $26 million. “. . . The class size is most potent in terms of cost savings because of the sheer number of teachers that we employ, compared to other positions,” he wrote via e-mail.

Only certificated employees who received preliminary and final layoff notices may be laid off for the subsequent school year, according to Eftychiou. “That’s one reason that school districts often ‘over-notice’ employees to protect their options down the line, especially when the budget scenario is as precarious as California’s,” he said.

Last May, the LBUSD Board of Education voted to send 243 final layoff notices to certificated employees. By the start of the school year, the district rehired 156 on year-to-year contracts. All of those teachers on year-to-year contracts for this past school year were given layoff notices again this year

Section 44955.5 of the state Education Code allows districts to lay off additional teachers five days after the state adopts a budget and before August 15 under certain circumstances. However, the legislature would have to enact a budget by the end of June for districts to have the time to institute more layoffs. According to Eftychiou, once the school year starts, the school district cannot layoff additional certificated staff for that year.

The news of the layoffs was announced about the same time the district’s Jordan High School was ranked among the top 6 percent of public schools in the U.S. for the first time, according to Newsweek’s annual listing of America’s Top High Schools.

The high school, located in North Long Beach, was recognized in part because of its International Baccalaureate college prep program, which includes courses honored at some of the best universities in the world. “Clearly, there is something special going on in this school district,” LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this news comes during the same week that we’ve laid off nearly 800 employees due to the state’s continued fiscal mismanagement. Never has it been more clear that our state legislature is squandering California’s human capital by starving nationally recognized school systems like ours of precious resources.”

A list of the employees affected by the layoffs is part of the school board agenda available online at www.lbschools.net.

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