Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/Polaris
Sean Brandlin, 8th grade social studies at El Segundo Middle School.

A half-dozen organizations representing school district officials have called on Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders not to agree to a 2020-21 state budget that would ban all employee layoffs in schools for a year. The layoff ban is part of possible deal that would be made in exchange for eliminating the budget cuts Newsom had proposed.

The officials released a two-page letter late Thursday in a last-minute attempt to avert what they assume is an imminent budget deal. The Department of Finance, which speaks on behalf of the governor on budget issues, declined to comment other than to say that discussions toward a budget agreement are continuing.

The letter implies that legislative leaders had convinced Newsom to accept their plan to make late payments to school districts in lieu of the 8 percent cut — $6.4 billion — that Newsom proposed last month. The cuts would be rescinded if the federal government provided enough stimulus aid to help close the state’s $54 billion revenue shortfall.

The school groups favor the Legislature’s proposal. It’s the no-layoffs trade-off they oppose. They implied it was pushed by organized labor and would jeopardize school districts’ ability to manage their finances under the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Do not constrain the ability for school districts to work with our local bargaining units and properly budget and manage personnel during this time of enormous transformation,” they said in their letter.

Signing the letter were the California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, California Association of California School Business Officials, Small School Districts’ Association, California Association of Suburban School Districts, and California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

Unions representing school employees have been urging legislators to impose a moratorium on layoffs of teachers and classified workers, which include bus drivers, kitchen staff, secretaries and classroom aides. They cited two statutes that the Legislature could suspend to impose a one-year ban on layoffs of school employees.

Unions have argued that school districts will need all hands on deck to meet the extraordinary demands of reopening schools during a pandemic. Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, restated that view while not commenting on the presumed budget deal, in a statement on Friday.

“We haven’t seen the budget in print but I can assure you that educators and classified workers have been advocating against layoffs of teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, school nurses and counselors because our students need them when we are planning to reopen safely,” she said. “It would be irresponsible and put our students, families and employees at risk. More employees are needed … not less.”

In principle, the school management organizations agree with that view. As part of a joint lobbying effort called the Education Coalition, they joined with CTA and other unions in a June 3 letter that praised the Legislature’s alternate budget proposal that “prevents immediate educator layoffs.”

“Our schools must have the resources they need to reopen safely,” the letter said. “During this pandemic that means proper supplies and equipment to ensure student and educator safety; smaller, not larger, class sizes that allow for proper social, physical distancing; additional educators like counselors, nurses and classified staff.”

But they’re arguing now that a ban on employee layoffs across the board would ignore individual districts’ circumstances and contradict the state’s policy of local control.

Financial pressures differ among districts, and even before the pandemic, some districts faced the prospect of laying off some employees to balance next year’s budget, the letter said. Since salaries and benefits make up between 80% and 90% of a district’s spending, a layoff ban would be a severe constraint, they wrote.

“It is not a good precedent to micromanage on how you deal with personnel,” said Edgar Zazueta, senior director of policy and governmental relations for the Association of California School Administrators. “It’s a huge overreach by the state to say we know what is going on everywhere in the state.”

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  1. Brenda Lebsack 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    As a teacher and board member, I would like to give input to some of the comments on this article. First, I would like to thank the author for a very fair-handed, unbiased article that clearly presented the facts to the reader. Thank you, Mr. Fensterwald. Demetrio: School Management and Corporate Management are not the same, in order to protect top tiered management high salary jobs. Teacher Unions are very powerfuL. … Read More

    As a teacher and board member, I would like to give input to some of the comments on this article. First, I would like to thank the author for a very fair-handed, unbiased article that clearly presented the facts to the reader. Thank you, Mr. Fensterwald.

    Demetrio: School Management and Corporate Management are not the same, in order to protect top tiered management high salary jobs.

    Teacher Unions are very powerfuL. They bring in approximately $195 million per year. Due to union power, teachers jobs are much more secure than other typical business employees. Administrators are not unionized so they do not have the same protections.
    It’s easier to cut admin positions when making budget cuts than to cut teacher jobs, because there’s less red tape and less fear of litigation.

    cc: As a Calif teacher who has been in my professions for 25 years, I make close to $100K a year with full benefits, this includes a total of 14 weeks off for holidays and summers throughout the year. I am grateful to get paid well for something I love doing. As a board member I get paid about $9K a year without benefits. If I chose to take the benefit package, it would be about $7K a year. So I’m not sure why you think board members have “fatty paychecks”. On the other hand, California superintendent salaries range from $125K – $400K (depending on size of district and locality).

    As a teacher with seniority, given this global crisis, I would gladly take a pay cut in order to save jobs of teachers with less seniority, however, my union does not give me that choice. Isn’t the motto of this pandemic, “We’re in this together?” However, the teachers’ union talks a good talk, but the talk comes out of two sides of the mouth. After two decades in the California Teachers Association, I exited a few months ago. I can no longer stomach their hypocritical politics. These articles explain.. . https://www.citizensjournal.us/does-the-california-teachers-association-cta-represent-the-majority-of-teachers-views/?fbclid=IwAR0cPz3xMzxjuAsfE0RFhFPevcBYm5HnNed7mspRRJl-5NRBpSGeO8QQwe4

    https://www.theepochtimes.com/minors-may-get-sex-changes-without-parental-consent-if-californias-teachers-union-has-its-way_3243361.html

    Pielaet: Suspend School Boards? School boards are the ones who protect taxpayers and represent the people. They are elected to listen to you so the average person (even those who no longer have children in the school system) can still have a voice of how their tax dollars are spent. School board members are supposed to be the checks and balances of government spending. Freeze salaries, yes … but more than likely reduce salaries and/or trim the fat in other ways.

  2. el 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Do we know how many districts have submitted Qualified or even Negative certification budgets for 20-21 yet?

    I don’t think anyone wants to lay off any staff. I also think no one wants to bounce any paychecks, and schools pretty much only have the money the legislature gives them to work with.

    I’ll echo Jennifer Bestor and say thank goodness districts were not required to draw down their reserves before this crisis hit.

  3. Brenda Lebsack 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    As a board member and a public teacher, I speak from both sides of fence on this issue. Of course I do not want to be laid off and I do not wish this upon any of my colleagues; however, reality tells me what we are currently doing is not financially sustainable. All companies and businesses are being financially impacted by this pandemic. Financial decisions for districts should be made by local control elected … Read More

    As a board member and a public teacher, I speak from both sides of fence on this issue. Of course I do not want to be laid off and I do not wish this upon any of my colleagues; however, reality tells me what we are currently doing is not financially sustainable. All companies and businesses are being financially impacted by this pandemic. Financial decisions for districts should be made by local control elected officials, not by state bureaucrats who are easily persuaded and manipulated by special interest groups.

    Keeping decisions close to home are in the best interest of everyone, because people who are impacted most, feel they have a voice in the matter. Teachers are rationale people. If they believe it is in the best interest of students to not lay anyone off, then most teachers will gladly take salary reductions for the overall good. Most teachers are not in this profession for the money. We are in this profession for the love of students and most of us understand that sometimes sacrifice is necessary. As for me, during this time, I am grateful to even have a job. I would rather take a cut than lose my job all together. As a special education teacher, I would rather take a cut, than have my students go without essential services.

  4. Brenda lebsack 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    The hyper link of the “two page letter” will not open. Can this be corrected? Thank you.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Thank you for letting me know. You should be able to access it now. Go here.

  5. Jennifer Bestor 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Are experienced teachers supporting this? First, restricting districts' flexibility is the same as saying that all money must be spent, business-as-usual, on staff, not Covid accommodations. Second, leaping to $11B in the first year of a multiyear recession sets the school bus on autopilot towards a financial cliff – with no emergency lay-off brake. Money that must be spent on personnel cannot be spent to support distance learning, on portable classrooms, or on other … Read More

    Are experienced teachers supporting this?

    First, restricting districts’ flexibility is the same as saying that all money must be spent, business-as-usual, on staff, not Covid accommodations. Second, leaping to $11B in the first year of a multiyear recession sets the school bus on autopilot towards a financial cliff – with no emergency lay-off brake.

    Money that must be spent on personnel cannot be spent to support distance learning, on portable classrooms, or on other mitigations for the pandemic – most of which protect older, more vulnerable staff members. Younger staff might logically support this, as they are on the firing line under the prevailing LIFO layoff process, and typically less vulnerable to Covid complications. If this is a new-broom-sweeping-clean process, OK – but let’s be clear about it.

    Meanwhile, a total of over $11B in deferrals – just one year from now – is quite a large financial cliff to head off. Especially since the LAO’s fiscal forecasts show $10B-$30B/year deficits through 2025 (California’s Spring Fiscal Outlook, Appendix 3, Figure 6). Prop 30, passed in 2012 to rescue us from the $10B in deferrals that had been accumulated over four years, raised just $7B/year – and has already been renewed, hence is included in the deficit numbers. Even if K-14 only swallows $4B more deferrals a year after this, we would have rebuilt the wall of debt without appreciably hacking down the CalSTRS overhang … And with Proposition 2 (2014) mandating rebuilding the rainy day fund before paying off any new debt.

    Six years ago the unions forced through an 11th hour reserves cap that made no sense at all the morning after. Had Sen. Jerry Hill and the CSBA not gone forty rounds to get it declawed before it activated this year, we would have been dealing with an even hotter mess. Is this another 11th hour sounds-good-backfires-bad move?

  6. Demetrio 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    School management is no different from corporate management: Protect their high salaries and perks by firing workers.

  7. Cc 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I notice the complaining people are from admins, school boards & superintendents. They are not the frontline workers. Their first interest isn’t for the students, like teachers and classified staff, but for their fatty paycheck. If they truly care, volunteer to cut your own salary then!

    I remember seeing a list of highest pay education workers in California somewhere around the internet. Not a single person from that list is a teacher or a classified staff.

  8. Chris 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Instead of layoffs, as a teacher I would accept furlough days for 100% of all district employees.

  9. Jeff 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This doesn’t limit furlough days or pay reductions. No layoffs in these strange times is a really good thing. These are well paying union jobs with benefits. This is how you bring the economy back. You put the money in the hands of people.

    Replies

    • Ann 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Of what money do you speak? That is the question. Where will it come from?

  10. G. Pielaet 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    The only part of the ban I would like to see lifted is for upper level administrators. I applaud the protection of the teachers and classified staff working on site, in buses, with students, anyone on the frontlines that keep the system running. They deserve to be protected. Suspend school boards. Freeze upper management and superintendent salaries for a year.

    Teachers and staff know what to do. They have been a lifeline for students during the pandemic and they got this!

  11. Cat 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    How is it an overreach?

    The districts need oversight.

    They hire and fire superintendents yearly at a half a million dollars a pop (including severance when they fire them after 10 months of sub par work).