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The high cost of learning

FCUSD budget calls for $5.6 million in cuts
By: Jim Ratajczak, The Telegraoh
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The Folsom Cordova Unified School District passed its general fund budget for the 2008-09 school year Monday night during a special board meeting at Folsom High School. To compensate for shrinking state funding, the district was forced to make cuts totaling $5.6 million. Teresa Stanley, an FCUSD board of education member, said balancing the 2008-09 budget was one of the most difficult tasks she’s tackled during her tenure. “I’ve been on the board in cut years before,” she said. “But we’re cutting twice as much as we’ve ever had to cut this year.” Among other areas, cuts will come at the cost of classroom supplies, music stipends and class size. “The cuts kind of went across the board,” said Renae Radovitch, executive assistant to the superintendent. “It wasn’t just one group that was affected.” The number of district employees will take a hit as well. The adopted budget calls for a 15 percent reduction of substitute teachers, a 25 percent reduction in special education classroom aides and a 10 percent cut in health assistants. “We had noticed 120 people earlier,” said Stanley. “But at last count, we were down to 47 (layoffs).” While 47 layoffs might seem like a staggering number compared to what other districts are reporting, Stanley said FCUSD includes temporary employees in its lay-off figures, something not usually done by neighboring school districts. According to Radovitch, Monday’s meeting drew an estimated crowd of 40-50 individuals anxious to see what the school board would do. “A few spoke about the elimination of third grade class size reduction,” she said. “We had a gentleman who expressed his concern over the reduction in music stipends.” Prior to the special board meeting, Superintendent Pat Godwin said the increase in third grade class size, from 20 to 32, would be the issue that drew the most attention. Those thoughts were echoed by both Stanley and Radovitch. “That has really been the hot button issue,” said Radovitch. But Stanley doesn’t think the increased class size will affect learning as much as some fear. She maintains that schools in economically stronger areas, like Folsom, are less likely to suffer with larger classes. “Academically, I don’t think it will make that much of a difference,” she said. “I don’t think it will impact the test scores.” Still, Stanley and many other district officials are crossing their fingers that the state budget will provide FCUSD with some financial relief. “I’m just hoping that when we get the state budget, we’ll be able to reinstate some of the programs we have lost,” she said. A complete list of general fund budget cuts for the 2008-09 school year can be seen at fcusd.org/budget.