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Early steps taken toward FCUSD teacher layoffs

By: Roger Phelps The Telegraph
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By Roger Phelps The Telegraph A worst-case scenario emerged Wednesday for teacher layoffs at local schools. "I have stated before that I think the governor's budget proposal may be more political theater than reality, but we are required to prepare for the worst," said Patrick Godwin, superintendent of Folsom-Cordova Unified School District. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger so far is not observing a voter-approved law, Prop. 98, that guaranteed a minimum spending level for education. Instead, he has lumped in education with all other state programs in what he calls "across-the-board" budget cuts of 10 percent. So, educators need a plan set up to observe a March 15 state deadline for notifying employees of possible layoff. Conversely, layoffs themselves depend on a final state budget being passed, something that usually does not occur for several months following the March 15 notification date. However, if the budget were passed today, the local district would have to cut some $9.1 million. So, district board members approved layoff notices Wednesday for a total of 120 positions, some of which could be part-times combined to equal a full-time salary. Apart from some "support" positions -- nurse and psychologist -- the positions specified are for teachers, from kindergarten through 12th grade. The board approved criteria for judging seniority among employees. A worst-case scenario within the larger one is that some seniority "ties" could be broken by the casting of lots. Whenever possible, they would be broken along criteria reflecting "needs of the district and students," including holding a credential specific to a needed program, and breadth of credentials held. Schwarzenegger has presided once before over a suspension of Prop. 98, an education-protection law voters passed in 1988. The law's sole suspension came in fiscal 2004-05 in an agreement between Schwarzenegger and the Education Coalition, an unofficial partnership of statewide education organizations. "The governor made a deal with education and broke it," said Sandy Silberstein, assistant executive director of the non-profit California Association of School Business Officials. "He agreed to a (spending) floor, then went below it. And, once you suspend a law twice in three years ¦. Suspension should only be in a dire emergency." Silberstein said the speculation she has heard is that at least one of four houses of the State Legislature would vote to suspend Prop. 98 once again to meet Schwarzenegger's budget. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, speaking Thursday at Folsom High School, said she opposed lumping in education with other programs in budget cuts. "Education is special," Bowen said. "It's the foundation of everything we do in democracy." The Telegraph's Roger Phelps can be reached at rogerp@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at folsomtelegraph.com