School cuts packaged, prioritized

Superintendent proposes a three-tiered process in making cuts to the school district budget. The first packaged cuts would be reinstated if parcel tax passes.

By Massiel Ladron De Guevara/Special to The Malibu Times

Grappling to regain some control over local area children’s education, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy is proposing a new method for deciding how the necessary $13 million program, staff and administrative cuts from the district’s budget will be made. The cuts, ranging from the instrumental music program at elementary school levels to administrators, teachers, nurses and physical education aids, totaling 207 personnel cuts, was met with disapproval by employees and local residents earlier this month. In an attempt to balance the needs of those affected by the cuts and the budget, Deasy presented a new alternative.

“This will be a fundamentally different way to process cuts,” Deasy said at a school board meeting at Malibu High School Feb. 6. “I am proposing to enact the entire pack of reductions recommended instead of creating the traditional one through 70 cuts. This way, once the cuts are made, the focus will change from cuts to restoration.”

Traditionally, the board has taken the recommended cuts and assigned a number to each, ranking cuts that cause the greatest harm to students as No. 1 and descending accordingly. Once funding levels out, programs at the top of the list would be reinstated in the order they were ranked.

With the system Deasy is proposing, all cuts would be placed in one of three packages. The first package would consist of all services essential to the core curriculum that are instrumental in students’ success. The subsequent packages would be comprised of the remaining cuts that are important, but do not affect students directly. The replacement system of each package under Deasy’s plan would be contingent on several factors. The first package, consisting of the top priorities as determined by the board, would be restored if the parcel tax were passed. The second package of reductions could only be restored if the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu contribute additional funding. Finally, the replacement of the third package would occur if additional money from another source, possibly the state, materialized.

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“It’s best to divide things in these packages,” Board Member Shane McLoud said. “This way there isn’t any hostility such as nurses versus librarians, or music versus computers. Everything would simply be grouped together.”

The school board will be evaluating the proposal and voting on it at its Feb. 20 and March 13 meetings. Its focus will then shift from cuts to re-implementation if the prospective packaging of cuts is passed.

“At that point, it would really be in the hands of voters,” Board Member Oscar de la Torre said. “A large part of the re-implementation would then come from the parcel tax, if voters pass it.”

This new parcel tax stems from failed Measure EE, which did not garner the required two-thirds approval needed for it to pass in the past November election. The new measure that will generate $7.2 million in revenue for the school, if passed, differs from Measure EE in that it exempts property owners, not renters, over the age of 65 from paying the proposed $225 parcel tax. The duration of the tax was also cut in half, from 12 to six years. A committee for the measure, Save Our Schools, is working toward generating voter awareness to the measure.

“We need to inform people so that we can get a strong vote,” Committee Chair Neil Carrey said. “Last election was a low turnout, we need to get the message across that cuts in the school district are real.

“The school district has already made enormous cuts and if this measure does not pass it will only mean more teachers and programs will be cut. We all have a social responsibility to this issue.”

The school board members agree with parents and committee members that the parcel tax must be passed by voters if the budget deficit is to improve. Although the success of the school district does not solely depend on the parcel tax, it would prevent some difficult cuts from being made in the future. In the meantime, Deasy is hopeful that no cuts will be made for this school year.

“With the packaging of cuts we would have much more time to reflect on the tough decision we will be making,” Deasy said. “With the added time, the public would have clear expectation on what would come back if this parcel tax is passed.”

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13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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